Continuing on with my poetry exploration, here’s Deborah Garrison – former editor at The New Yorker, current poetry editor at Alfred A. Knopf.
I like her straightforward, but fun, take on womanhood. The collection that I picked up, A Working Girl Can’t Win, was written when she was in her 20s as a single woman living in Manhattan and testing out the waters of career and dating. The poems capture that stage in life perfectly. (Now she’s a married mother of 3 living in suburban New Jersey.) “‘Accessible’ is a word both fans and detractors use for her poetry,” writes The New York Times. “Serious” poets and critics apparently find this a problem, but that’s what I like about it.
Garrison doesn’t mind the assessment. “I need to feel that the language in my poems is alive, in the sense of talking on the phone to a friend, sharing gossip.” Every time I pass by the neighborhoord firehouse, I realize why there is a photo calendar of firemen and not of, say, accountants.
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 was a near miss.