God forgive me--
It's the firemen,
leaning in the firehouse garage
with their sleeves rolled up
on the hottest day of the year.
As usual, the darkest one is handsomest.
The oldest is handsomest.
The one with the thin, wiry arms is handsomest.
The young one already going bald is handsomest.
And so on.
Every day I pass them at their station:
the word sexy wouldn't do them justice.
Such idle men are divine--
especially in summer, when my hair
sticks to the back of my neck,
a dirty wind from the subway grate
blows my skirt up, and I feel vulgar,
lifting my hair, gathering it together,
tying it back while they watch
as a kind of relief.
Once, one of them walked beside me
to the corner. Looked into my eyes.
He said, "Will I never see you again?"
Gutsy, I thought.
I'm afraid not, I thought.
What I said was I'm sorry
But how could he look into my eyes
if I didn't look equally into his?
I'm sorry: as though he'd come close, as though
this really were a near miss. Please Fire Me
Here comes another alpha male,
and all the other alphas
are snorting and pawing,
kicking up puffs of acrid dust
while the silly little hens
clatter back and forth
on quivering claws and raise
a titter about the fuss.
Here comes another alpha male--
a man's man, a dealmaker,
holds tanks of liquor,
charms them pantsless at lunch:
I've never been sicker.
Do I have to stare into his eyes
and sympathize? If I want my job
I do. Well I think I'm through
with the working world,
through with warming eggs
and being Zenlike in my detachment
from all things Ego.
I'd like to go
somewhere else entirely,
and I don't mean
Europe. Husband, Not at Home
A soldier, a soldier,
gone to the litigation wars,
or down to Myrtle Beach
to play golf with Dad for the weekend.
Why does the picture of him
tramping the emerald grass in those
silly shoes or flinging his tie over his shoulder
to eat a take-out dinner at his desk--
the carton a squat pagoda in the forest
of legal pads on which he drafts,
in all block caps, every other line,
his motions and replies--fill her
with obscure delight?
Must be the strangeness: his life
strange to her, and hers to him,
as she prowls the apartment with a vacuum
in boxers (his) and bra, or flings
herself across the bed
with three novels to choose from
in the delicious, sports-free
silence. Her dinner a bowl
of cereal, taken cranelike, on one
leg, hip snug to the kitchen
counter. It makes her smile to think
he'd disapprove, to think she likes him
almost best this way: away.
She'll let the cat jump up
to lap the extra milk, and no one's
home to scold her. Worked Late on a Tuesday Night
Midtown is blasted out and silent,
drained of the crowd and its doggy day
I trample the scraps of deli lunches
some ate outdoors as they stared dumbly
or hooted at us career girls-the haggard
beauties, the vivid can-dos, open raincoats aflap
in the March wind as we crossed to and fro
in front of the Public Library.
Never thought you'd be one of them,
did you, little lady?
Little Miss Phi Beta Kappa,
with your closetful of pleated
skirts, twenty-nine till death do us
part! Don't you see?
The good schoolgirl turns thirty,
forty, singing the song of time management
all day long, lugging the briefcase
home. So at 10:00 PM
you're standing here
with your hand in the air,
cold but too stubborn to reach
into your pocket for a glove, cursing
the freezing rain as though it were
your difficulty. It's pathetic,
and nobody's fault but
your own. Now
down into the collar.
Cabs, cabs, but none for hire.
I haven't had dinner; I'm not half
of what I meant to be.
Among other things, the mother
of three. Too tired, tonight,
to seduce the father.
Excerpted from A Working Girl Can't Win by Deborah Garrison. . Excerpted by permission of Modern Library, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.