i knew it was going to be an iffy gig
when my boss told me to get my feet off my desk;
when i pointed to the men in the newsroom
scuffing their heels on the tops of their own,
he said he wasn’t talking about them
he was talking about me acting like a lady.
a few days later on his wraparound porch,
in the striking calm of a nebraska summer night,
he told me i ought to consider wearing skirts —
i swatted away a mosquito
and told him my lemonade tasted
the next day i wore khakis.
he assigned me a feature story
on a corn-fed county fairgrounds keeper
who answered questions by saying nigger,
over and over,
and, over and over, i told him it was offensive;
he chuckled like he thought i was joking —
the way adults do to kids when they’re
thinking about how much they think they know;
when i said i wasn’t joking he laughed some more —
i guess he thought i wasn’t just joking,
i was really joking.
the court reporter seemed kind
so when he invited me over for baseball and beers,
to discuss questions i might have as a cub reporter,
but when i turned down his advances
he spit, what are you a fucking dyke.
later that summer the sports editor
gave me the keys to a
charming upstairs apartment he’d love to rent me,
so i could cut a long drive into a few block walk;
it couldn’t hurt to check it out,
so i went over on my evening break to give it a look:
its second-floor charm won me over at first
and i thought the sting from the one-two punch
of the past few weeks was finally at an end,
but i quickly lost the round to the used condoms
strewn about, just so,
the sugar factory blew up on my day off
and my boss called me to come in;
i stayed in my bed with my parents upstairs
praying for the ability to want to wear dresses
to write stories about racists and to avoid the crush
i had on a girl named ann;
i sat at home trying to reason up an excuse
that somehow out-importanced the biggest fireball
to hit the panhandle
since the hardware store burned down in ’79,
though this time there were dead factory workers
and a career to be made.
but i stayed in my bed in my parent’s house.
and i never went back to that job.
and when i moved away,
i didn’t want to leave,
but i knew i had to —
to find a new place to live.
but charming upstairs apartments were ruined forever.