liberal journalism

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
extra sour.

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,
i accepted.
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,
for me.

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.

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