Preface : Pablo Neruda said, a Nobel Prize is good
and I’m sure he could use the money,
but the best is when the miners, coming from deep
in the earth recited his poems to him.
He was that kind of poet, and those odes
he wrote to common things, the socks, the spoon,
the loaf of bread, a violin in California,
to me are stand-ins for common folk
when maybe it isn’t safe to say how much
you love, how close you’ve grown to earth.
And so I dedicate this poem to him,
over the heads of families, under the Santa Fe
blue sky and living wages in at least a few pockets.
I myself have all I need times ten. We built
our house, we carried water seven years.
I volunteered to simplify, here’s how and why.
Labor Day Poem :
The best job I ever had was driving a school bus
right out of college and I thought it a job suitable
for a poet, cruising the upscale suburb in a Blue Bird
bus and my family hoped I wouldn’t be recognized.
the best job I ever had was teaching kindergarten,
the kids in the morning and the kids in the afternoon.
I taught them the hora and the Mexican Hat Dance
and Woody Guthrie. Even now, all in their 40’s
they wonder where they got these tunes.
The best job I ever had was working in a firehouse
with the lost children. Every staff meeting we’d disagree
about autism and how to hold the children when they
couldn’t hold themselves. That was a job I walked to
past a corner bakery on 9th and Judah that sold pirogues.
The best job I ever had was selling garden plants
1973, I watered all the trees, carried bags
of steer manure to cars. I learned to say maybe
you watered it too much, or maybe too little.
The best job was not substitute teaching.
I got the spitballs and the thumbtacks on my chair.
I got the attitudes and how by high school
even then, they’d given up.
The best job was waiting tables at El Paragua in Española
My old boss still knows me, says, “Oh Joanie, I remember
when you dropped the steak and lobster.” And I recall
the sopapilla basket I set on fire, too close to the candle.
But even then I felt the joy of work and customers
treated us as humans not as servants, but still I tip well
in homage to those days.
In Santa Fe, on Canyon Road, I swept the patio
in my apron as the tourist bus passed by the Haven.
I tried to look like local color. Then I was a chiropractor’s
right hand until my third child came onto the scene, I mean,
I was a mother almost all along and that was a hidden
love and job of work.
And all along I gave my life to poetry, which begs
the question, am I management or labor? Thirty years
and here I stand. I always thought if I aimed low,
kept my feet on solid earth, I’d be myself for the long haul.
My self, the best job I ever had,