Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Poem a Day: 15

Tax Day

Oh, I remember that first paycheck, back in college,
Pittsburgh, when it was “the most livable city” in
the country, when minimum wage was 3.25 and I 
was just 20, and worked five or six hours a week 

for Elaine Powers Figure Salon, jumping on a podium, 
slapping my hard thighs, counting loud, crammed 
into a tight T and high cut half-leotard, shiny stockings 
and hot black legwarmers (the uniform I’d been obliged

to purchase before starting the job), my hair shorn 

on one side, the rest curled with chemicals, fashioned 
to fall with rakish insouciance over one mascara-
bleeding eye; when I whirled and twirled and sweat

and shouted to Prince and The Clash, then slalomed
back to campus through rush hour traffic on a creaky
old 10 speed (once Mom's), flying down and then
slogging up hills; when I debated the Cuban Missile

Crisis in class and went home to bang out angry
poems and papers on Chaucer, killing my typewriter;
when I missed my boyfriend, the one who'd flunked
himself out a year, so much that I took up with another;

when light fell into my parents' old bedroom (mine
now, like the bike) in the house I now hared with four
strangers with a kind of gray grace; when I filed my
first taxes, noting as I did that I made no real dent

in the American economy--that, in fact, according
to the charts, I didn't need to file because I'd made
nothing, or nearly so, and would be getting everything
back (a hundred bucks or so and change), all those

sweaty hours earned with hard labor and sore
muscles, to the driving disco beat, where women
worked after work and before dinner to make sure
they (like me) didn't take up too much space.

April 15 2014

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