Thursday, March 19, 2015

poem of the day 03.19.15

the poetry rejection

in 1999 i was
three years out of college

working in a library basement
checking-in magazines and newspapers for a living
delivering mail and stocking book donations

making fifteen grand a year
which mostly went to rent, bills,
gas money and smokes

she had written three books of poetry in twenty years
but was well-known around the city
for being one of the hard-working literary big shots

she’d been my teacher in college
had given me c.k. williams and a b minus
for missing too many of her classes

in one small stretch
i’d read two of her books on a plane
from florida back to pittsburgh
then proceeded to forget them both

but i was hardly getting by
living bad paycheck to bad paycheck
growing green on peanut butter sandwiches
and hardly writing a word of my own

i thought the only way
i’d ever make it was to go back to grad school
and get an MFA degree

hide in some college until i died

i needed a recommendation
so i thought about the poet and her books
the c.k. williams and the b minus

i started leaving messages for her
but she never got back to me

when i finally got her
she said, well, you know
in that soothing poet voice she’d used in class

usually i do recommendations
but i’ve just been so busy with my own poetry lately
the new book, readings
that i simply don’t have the time to write a letter for you

she laughed her flighty poet laugh
said, you know, this is the first time
i’ve ever said no to anyone

then she said, good luck with the poetry, and hung up on me

as i sat there
surrounded by a pile of mail
that needed to be sorted

a dull ache in my belly
half a pack of cigarettes left until payday

and another peanut butter sandwich waiting
with my name written all over it

for her next book to come out
eleven years later.


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