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Keats

I've known the pleasures of being
fired at least eleven times-

most notably by Larry who found my snood
unsuitable, another time by Jack,
whom I was sleeping with. Poor attitude,
tardiness, a contagious lack
of team spirit; I have been unmotivated

squirting perfume onto little cards,
while stocking salad bars, when stripping
covers from romance novels, their heroines
slaving on the chain gang of obsessive love-

and always the same hard candy
of shame dissolving in my throat;

handing in my apron, returning the cash-
register key. And yet, how fine it feels,
the perversity of freedom which never signs
a rent check or explains anything to one's family.

I've arrived again, taking one more last
walk through another door, thinking “I am
what is wrong with America,” while outside
in the emptied, post-rushhour street,

the sun slouches in a tulip tree and the sound
of a neighborhood pool floats up on the heat.

—Christopher Howell

From Light’s Ladder
University of Washington Press, 2004

Copyright 2004 Christopher Howell.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of University of Washington Press. Copyright 2004 by Christopher Howell. For further permissions information, contact Denise Clark, University of Washington Press, 1326 5th Ave., Ste. 555, Seattle, WA 98101, (206) 543-4057, ddclark@u.washington.edu.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Christopher Howell is the author of nine poetry collections, including Dreamless and Possible: Poems New and Selected (University of Washington Press, 2013).

Learn more about Christopher Howell at Eastern Oregon University.