Pushing, pushing, pushing

Just a quick note to direct you to qarrtsiluni, where I just published another poem. They are good to me.

Permanent link: http://qarrtsiluni.com/2009/07/02/pushing-1s-and-0s/.

“Solidifying our position”

Tears stream down
her face.
No, no, no – I can’t
believe it.
Yes, she says, clutching her
cardboard box
to her stomach,
only recently slender
after childbirth,
her knuckles white
as on the wheel
of the car
last summer
during her husband’s
heart attack.
No, not you. Nine
years of conference calls
and meetings to
pay for the partners’
first-class airline tickets and
their girlfriends’ upgrades.
How can it end here
among these small, grey
walls, push pins and staplers.
No champagne toast to
a new job, no envious hugs,
just awkward silence as
the survivors shuffle back
to their desks.

Discovery

If I had been born then,
in a past of unplowed prairie,
uncrossed lakes and hills,
I may have been a pioneer,
driving west in covered wagons.

Or maybe I was amaneunsis
to a dandy from the East,
recording his memoir of wild West,
while scribing my own secret thoughts
by firelight or by waning moon.

If I could be born again,
in a future hub of commerce,
port of interplanetary trade,
I would be a wanderer still, I think,
a mapper of the Milky Way.

Perhaps I’d keep electronic “books”
for a slightly roguish trader,
tracking bales of alien grain,
while writing my own “hiker’s guide”
by the light of strange new stars.

But I am fixed
in time and space
and the only journey I can make
is discovery of myself.

Invisible

Delivery trucks line Financial – that half-street stunted by train tracks
and Board of Trade barriers. Vehicle signage announces Document
Destruction, Evian, Ajax Security, Minute Maid. I walk swiftly
from condo to office, as pigeons scatter slowly at my feet, completely
assimilated, scavenging leftover Goldfish and Sun Chips.

Men push dollies laden with soda to the back doors of sandwich shops,
up loading dock ramps, bound for vending machines and refrigerated cases
where they will sit next to bottled water and cups of sliced fruit.

The CEO decides to refocus the firm on first principles, which results
in the obsolescence of an entire division, which empties a floor or two
of a Louis Sullivan building, which means fewer workers buying coffee
and bagels and yogurt, which bankrupts the old man in the lobby,
which means one less delivery truck on Financial, which means Carlos
must take a second shift to make up the lost wages, which is why he stumbles
from lack of sleep and spills soda cans on the sidewalk before me.

I am implicated. I am complicit. I walk around the cans. My boots crunch
on the salty streets, my face aches, fingers are numb, nose runs.
A train curves shakily round its elevated corner, delivering the next wave
of office workers to the newsstand, the nail salon, the flower shop.

[revision of previous poem]

Walking to work in early March

Back side of my condo building,
step carefully around muddy snow
and the frozen evidence of small dogs.

Descend into the subway to shortcut
the busy street, past the Jamaican vendor
and his posters of Bob Marley,
Martin Luther King, his incense and
island music.

Emerge from the ground under
an announcement for nonstop flights
to San Francisco – last week it was
Tucson, Denver before that.

Delivery trucks line south LaSalle –
that half-street stunted by train
tracks and Board of Trade barriers –
vehicle signage declaring Document
Destruction, Evian, Ajax Security,
Minute Maid.

Pigeons scatter oh so slowly at my feet,
urban birds, bold and completely
assimilated, scavenging leftover
Goldfish and Sun Chips.

Men push dollies laden with soda
to the back doors of sandwich shops
or up loading dock ramps, bound for
vending machines and refrigerated cases
where they will sit next to the bottled
water and cups of sliced fruit.

Invisible jobs that depend on my job
(mine only slightly less invisible),
the professional services staffer,
the information age worker, pushing
paper while the men outside push carts
to newsstands or nail salons or flower shops.

Who would buy their pedicures and roses,
if not for the hundreds of office workers,
logging on, logging off, scurrying with
paper  cups from cubicle to copy machine
with great purpose, or great in the minds
of someone – CEO, CFO, CMO, CIO?
Is there a man or woman among them who
eschews their special letters in favor of
“fellow human being”?

A CEO decides to “refocus our firm on first
principles,” which results in the obsolescence
of an entire division, which empties a floor or two
of a Louis Sullivan building, which means
fewer workers buying coffee and bagels and yogurt,
which bankrupts the old man in the lobby,
which means one less delivery truck on LaSalle,
which means Carlos must take a second shift
to make up the lost wages, which is why he stumbles
from lack of sleep and spills soda cans
on the sidewalk before me.

I am implicated. I am complicit. I am
sure of this. But I walk around the cans.
My boots crunch on the salty streets, my face
aches, fingers are numb, nose runs.
A train curves shakily round its elevated
corner, a bright orange ad on its metal body
commanding me to “Stop Whining.”

Back-to-school time

Students appear as if from nowhere
   in the fall
Wearing that eager, but scared look,
And a different energy soon permeates
   my neighborhood
Reminding me that another season has
   passed
And asking, why am I not in school?

Some people mark the passing of time
   on January 1,
But for me it is the first crisp day
   of autumn:
Fresh notebooks and new shoes,
Class schedules and syllabi,
And the promise of something learned
From the pages of hitherto unknown
   books,
Or the mouths of eccentric professors
Who have dedicated their lives to the
   sonnets of Shakespeare,
Or the history of Spanish colonial
   architecture,
Or a new English translation of Journey
   to the West
.

And as the days shorten and the wind
   cools,
I vow that someday I will live my life
   immersed
In obscure books of literary criticism,
In the yellowing letters between poet
   A and author B,
And measure my time by semesters
   and sabbaticals
And the stacks of papers to grade.

 **Hey, why are you sitting around reading blogs? Go take a class!
>> The University of Chicago Graham School of General Studies
>> Columbia College Center for Book & Paper Arts
>> Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies

Bottom line

Can I count on karma
To punish those beyond my reach,
Who have broken no law,
But have ill-used their fellows?

I watch the corporate games,
Tally the casualties, and wonder
Why are the good people so used?
Why do their oppressors not pay?

Will the meek truly inherit the earth?
Will those who suffer be rewarded?
When all the corporate profits turn
To dust, the only real goal left to meet
Will be kindness.