After 22 wonderful years in Ripon, Wisconsin, I am happy to report a successful move to the Berkshires with my husband and two spaniels. Co-editor with David Graham of After Confession: Poetry as Autobiography (Graywolf), my recent publications in addition to V-V include SoFloPoJo, Villanelles (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets), and Cooking With The Muse (Tupelo). I have work forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review and The Crafty Poet 11 (Terrapin Books). Pantoums are in my DNA, and I am grateful to FF for accepting so many of them.
Door To Door
I ask my students to describe their worst job.
One says cleaning out chicken coops,
another trimming Christmas trees whose sap
stained and stuck to his skin and his clothes,
someone else mentions deep-frying at Burger King,
then housekeeping hotel rooms for rich folks.
Suddenly my own worst job doesn’t seem so bad.
The scenery was pretty—I’d park beneath a leafy oak
or elm and walk past flowering gardens, beautiful
Victorian homes—but I couldn’t bear the rejections.
I can’t remember the measly commission, but I
spent more on gas than I ever made from sales,
driving from suburb to suburb in my beat-up
blue Toyota before it stalled for good. I began
to understand Willy Loman’s troubles, most days
no smile of mine able to get me much farther
than hello. Early on, I’d convinced myself of all
the hundreds of letters I’d help cross the country
into invisible starlit zones. Diligently, I carried
my heavy load of zip code directories door
to door, rang the startling bells of strangers
in an era when a zip code was hard to come by.
My heart always raced if someone answered.
I’d stare into the hallways like a thief casing
the joint and do the hard sell I was trained
to do: for only three dollars and fifty cents…
The last straw a bald man I guessed to be
in his eighties standing pale as birch bark
in the doorway in his sleeveless white tee shirt,
shaking a fist at me. “What do I want with one
of those? Everyone I know is dead!” he yelled
as he slammed the door in my face like a distant
relative unhappy with the world we both lived in,
mine just beginning like a summery walk down
a summery block with what now seems a Beatles
song playing in the background, my car a chariot
taking me away from all the lonely citizens.
©2016 Kate Sontag
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