Looking for Work
In the city no tree is too small
to escape the human alphabet
and yet one without a job
is kind of invisible. What job.
What tidy bit of formal activity.
I float into all the windows,
follow all cars home and inhabit
the secrets my neighborhood carries
When you’re unemployed in a plaza,
you have entrée to the multiple affairs,
the entreaties, the escapes, the wrapping-up,
the years-later. I used to sit at a counter
and dust the classifieds with my toast crumbs
drawing circles like one deciphering glyphs
by lantern in a tomb, and walk away cursed.
Under the weight of their credentials
my leg broke in five places. Over here,
their statue of the Buddha, over there,
the open letter, and probably nuclear
submarines glide under the sunset,
one might guess from the short life span
glowing around each of us. Meanwhile
a stranger plays the gold piano she wheeled
under the lindens. Gold is its own concordance.
I play the most delicate balalaika, and bike
all night with a samovar balanced on my handlebars.
I think I remember work, stifled yawns,
how a rivet pulls the metal sheets together
like near-strangers clutching at last call.
My advice is to be survived by a hymn.
Put allegories in charge and wait for loss.
Ed Skoog is the author of three collections of poetry, Run the Red Lights, Rough Day, and Mister Skylight, all published by Copper Canyon Press. He is poetry editor of Okey-Panky and co-host, with novelist J. Robert Lennon, of the podcast “Lunch Box, with Ed and John.”
The Poetry Section is edited by Mark Bibbins.