Too young to take pleasure
from those privileged glimpses
you're sometimes given after failure,
or to see the hidden opportunity
in not getting what you want,
each day I subwayed into Manhattan
in my new, blue serge suit,
looking for work. College, I thought
had whitened my collar, set me up,
but I'd majored in history.
What did I know about the world?
At interviews, if asked about the world,
I might have responded - citing Carlyle -
Great men make it go. I want to be one of those.
But they wanted someone entry-level,
pleased for a while to be small.
Others got the jobs;
no doubt, later in the day, the girls.
At Horn & Hardarts, for solace
at lunch time, I'd make a sandwich emerge
from its cell of pristine glass.
It took just a nickel and a dime.
Nickels and dimes could make
a middleman disappear, easy as that,
no big deal, a life or two
destroyed, others improved.
But I wasn't afraid of capitalism.
All I wanted was a job like a book
so good I'd be finishing it
for the rest of my life.
Had my education failed me?
I felt a hankering for the sublime,
its dangerous subversions
of the daily grind.
Oh I took a dull, well-paying job.
History major? the interviewer said, I think
you might be good at designing brochures.
I was. Which filled me with desire
for almost everything else in the world.