Two Poems

Degrees of Motion

In the month between long-awaited graduation ceremony 
and arrival of the parchment reading, BA, Summa Cum Laude, 
Economics, he resigns himself to keeping his three part-time 
jobs, all distantly related to his major.  Repeating Welcome 
to Walmart? How do you want that cooked? Tickets Please.
as if studying for a quiz.

His professor retrains as a checkout clerk, eventually learns
the routine of his relationship between customer and conveyor 
belt is, when executed with laser-precision, meditative. 
Do you have a card?[beep] Did you bring your own bags? [beep]
Any coupons? [beep] Cans go on the bottom, [beep] 
eggs and breads on top. 

Catalogue orders stop coming in, overnight. Blueprints 
for the hospital expansion rest curled on the drafting table, 
unread. The diner sits empty, construction workers home.
Managers drop off suits at the dry cleaners they can’t afford 
to pick up. Door chimes, announcing entering shoppers, signal 
another someone coming in to ask for a job.

Collectively, we grip our steering wheels as our tires skid down 
pavement, grind to a halt. Sit quietly, waiting for the light to turn 
green, the flag to wave, calculating the time it will take us 
to accelerate zero-to-sixty, save money for a class, rewrite 
our resumes, finish our Masters, change our position from 
policewoman to nurse, stock broker to soldier, mechanic 

to accountant. Counting the miles we’ll need to cover to reach 
our new destination, in singles, one day, one step, one dollar, 
one bill, at a time.

His New Job Site

Without enough work to go around he’s left 
to tend the house during the day, forcing 
his wife to take on more hours at her job. 
Married twenty years, he rises before her, 

puts on the coffee, walks their dogs, kisses her 
goodbye, goes to work cleaning their house. 
He runs a tight ship.  He picks their daughter up 
from high school at 2:45. Drops her at her job.

Dinner is prepared at four and on the table 
by five. Laundry is finished in assembly line 
fashion. The baskets light in his muscled arms 
compared to the pipe wrenches he’s used 

to lifting off his truck and carrying up flights 
of stairs on his old job sites.  There’s no room 
for log jams in his schedule. He’s always 
on the look out for risks; stray toys, wet floors, 

the small details she’d leave unattended, he addresses 
knowing the cost of OSHA reprisal. Every day,
he oversees the men with jobs as they arrive.  
The ones bringing mail, oil, and gas.  The meter 

man measures wattage. The cable repair man shows 
up to fix a broken connection. The garbage men 
stop by weekly, like clockwork. Every visit 
reminds him of the bills needing to be paid 

and what he’s not doing to pay them.

—Elizabeth Cleary, Hamden, CT