Odd Jobs

From 1995. Revised

1.
Cleaning out the apartment
of a woman
who had disappeared.

Ivy around the bedroom window frame
may once have been meant
to evoke the woodland
for a homesick
“country gal”
in the city,

but that dust caked
plastic ivy around the frame,
long ignored fake ivy
tacked to the grimy window frame
with its broken blind, its cobwebs,
its setting among
clothing strewn
in disarray, 

suggested instead
an archway
into an otherness
long ago entered
by someone from this side
who has yet to return,
is overdue to come back through.

2.
Cutting foam rubber
with bandsaws
into pillow shapes.

If the noise somehow
can be absorbed by the foam
and enter all those
sleepyheads,

if people
end up in nightmares
about a ribbon of steel
whining through them,

all the boredom
of this job might be
worth it.
You might call that cruel,

but only if
you’ve never
done anything
like this.

3.
Industrial
corn chip maker,
or at least
the one who mixes
the batter.

Hair net, beard net,
gloves, safety glasses,
steel toed shoes, smock –

I entered the factory
on my first day
tricked out for
radioactivity
or
The Ark Of The Covenant 

only to find the hazard
was in knowing evermore
that the corn chip powder
I poured
one thirty five pound bag
at a time
into the hot tub size mixer
became neon green
when water hit it.

It cannot not be unlearned
once known.  It cannot be
unseen. I have not had
a corn chip since then,
and thus am denied
part of my national birthright –
something to eat at parties,
something to eat
from vending machines,
something eaten in the car
to stave off hunger
for the last fifty miles
of any given journey.

4.
Surveillance
of a deadbeat renter.

Hours in the DMV waiting
for him to renew
a license I’d learned was expiring
paid off.

He’d tried to vanish,
but I found him,
tailed him
home.

The house
was covered in ivy,
and for a moment, a wild
moment, 

I thought I might solve
three mysteries
at once,
if you could count

my muddle of a life
to that point as one –
but no dice.
He lived alone.

I made a note
of the new address,
called it in,
and quit.

5.
I’ve truly had no job odder
than this current occupation

which insists upon
incessant reporting

of connections and meaning
where none are visible;

demands that details
be magnified until they are totemic;

tastes, sometimes,
of swift steel severing tangled false ivy;

of hunger tainting long hours
of inert observation;

of ghost salt, poison corn,
and the tears of the disappeared.

About Tony Brown

A poet with a history in slam, lots of publications; my personal poetry and a little bit of daily life and opinions. Read the page called "About..." for the details. View all posts by Tony Brown

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