Not Quite Glengarry, poem by Jeanetta Calhoun Mish

At 8am, my friend dropped me off in front
of a non­de­script yel­low­ish strip-mall building
at the crum­bled edge of Lit­tle Rock; the parking

lot most­ly emp­ty. Peo­ple with per­son­able voices
need­ed. No expe­ri­ence nec­es­sary. Apply today.
I was try­ing to go straight, attempt­ing to abandon

an assort­ment of mar­gin­al­ly legal employments.
Hop­ing to land a job with only a high school
degree, two weeks after a mis­car­riage, one week

after my boyfriend wrecked my car, hocked all
my fur­ni­ture, spent the rent mon­ey, and ran off
with his ex-wife. I believed I could change

my life by chang­ing jobs. Mr. My Blake,
just back from THE most moti­va­tion­al sem­i­nar EVER,
lurched around the room like a speed freak

in a baby blue leisure suit that went out
of style eight years before in 1975. We
would SELL LIKE SAMSON (who­ev­er

the hell that was. Per­haps My Blake thought
he was the guy who invent­ed Samsonite).
The Out­bound Tele­mar­ket­ing Specialist

who had been there longest, My Williamson,
hand­ed us our scripts. Hel­lo, my name is Machine
Levine and I’m call­ing you today because you are

the lucky win­ner of a set of steak knives. You don’t
remem­ber enter­ing a draw­ing? You didn’t—
we’ve cho­sen you from a long list of deserving

men and women who rarely catch a break
much less win a prize. You only have to pay
for …I made it half a day before an old lady

answered with a voice that sound­ed just like
my granny’s and I couldn’t bear the shame of lying
to her, of ask­ing her to send only $49.95 in shipping

and han­dling charges for a set of plastic-handled
steak knives with flim­sy alu­minum blades, despite
know­ing that, accord­ing to My Blake who flashed

a sam­ple like a switch­blade, they came encased
in a red vel­vet bag with faux silk draw­strings. I
apol­o­gized for dis­turb­ing Mrs. Somebody’s Granny,

grabbed my coat and walked out. And kept walking
a mile to the near­est bus stop where I wait­ed an hour
for the next bus. Three trans­fers and two hours after

embark­ing, I was back where I was stay­ing with a friend
from AA. A new job had not changed my life, but it had
changed my mind about the val­ue of employment

at all costs. The next week, I hitch­hiked home
to Tul­sa, couch-surfed, read Marx for the first time,
called myself pro­le­tar­i­an, and nev­er looked back.

calhounmishJeanet­ta Cal­houn Mish is a poet, writer and lit­er­ary schol­ar; Mish’s most recent book is Okla­home­land, a col­lec­tion of essays pub­lished by Lamar Uni­ver­si­ty Press. What I Learned at the War, a poet­ry col­lec­tion, is forth­com­ing in 2016 from West End Press. Her 2009 poet­ry col­lec­tion, Work Is Love Made Vis­i­ble (West End Press) won an Okla­homa Book Award, a Wran­gler Award, and the WILLA Award from Women Writ­ing the West.

Mish has pub­lished poet­ry in This Land, Nau­gatuck Riv­er Review, Con­cho Riv­er Review, LABOR: Stud­ies in Work­ing Class His­to­ry of the Amer­i­c­as, San Pedro Riv­er Review, Blast Fur­nace, and Protest​Po​ems​.org, among oth­ers. Essays and short fic­tion have appeared recent­ly in Sug­ar Mule, Crosstim­bers, Red Dirt Chron­i­cles, and Cyber­soleil. Anthol­o­gy pub­li­ca­tions include poems in Return­ing the Gift and The Colour of Resis­tance as well as the intro­duc­to­ry essay for Ain't Nobody That Can Sing Like Me: New Okla­homa Writ­ing.

Mish serves as con­tribut­ing edi­tor for Okla­homa Today and for Sug­ar Mule: A Lit­er­ary Jour­nal. She is also edi­tor of Mon­grel Empire Press which was rec­og­nized as 2012 Pub­lish­er of the Year by the Wood­craft Cir­cle of Native Writ­ers and Sto­ry­tellers. Dr. Mish is the Direc­tor of The Red Earth Cre­ative Writ­ing MFA pro­gram at Okla­homa City Uni­ver­si­ty where she also serves as a fac­ul­ty men­tor in writ­ing ped­a­gogy and the craft of poetry.

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