At the Office Holiday Party
I can now confirm that I am not just fatter
than everyone I work with, but I'm also fatter
than all their spouses. Even the heavily bearded
bear in accounting has a lithe otter-like boyfriend.
When my co-workers brightly introduce me
as the "the funny one in the office," their spouses
give them a look which translates to, Well, duh,
then they both wait for me to say something funny.
A gaggle of models comes shrieking into the bar
to further punctuate why I sometimes hate living
in this city. They glitter, a shiny gang of scissors.
I don't know how to look like I'm not struggling.
Sometimes on the subway back to Queens,
I can tell who's staying on past the Lexington stop
because I have bought their shoes at Payless.
They are shoes that fool absolutely no one.
Everyone wore their special holiday party outfits.
It wasn't until I arrive at the bar that I realized
my special holiday party outfit was exactly the same
as the outfits worn by the restaurant's busboys.
While I'm standing in line for the bathroom,
another patron asks if I'm there to clean it.
— Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz
I am trimming my financial fat — otherwise known as slashing "unnecessary" luxuries from my life — when I find this poem. This gem is in the Winter edition of Rattle, the last issue in my subscription. I wasn't going to renew. Times are lean and I need to cut back, stand tall, carry on and every other recession-era platitude that eliminates fun and replaces it with function.
But then I read this poem. And turn the page and read another great poem. And another. I am glued to the journal, racing and retracing every word and absorbing poets I did not know and now want to (namely Alice Fulton, Molly Peacock and Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz).
Even the bio notes in the back feel insightful. Erik Campbell, author of a startling poignant poem about his father, writes:
"I read and write poetry to remind myself that I have a soul that needs a periodic tuneup."
That seals it. I am renewing my subscription. With balm like this, literary journals are elevated from really-want to must-have.