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On Being Fired Again

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.

—Erin Belieu

from One Above & One Below, 2001
Copper Canyon Press

Copyright 2001 by Erin Belieu.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press from One Above & One Below. Copyright 2001 by Erin Belieu. For further permissions information, contact The Permissions Company, P.O. Box 243, High Bridge, NJ 08829, phone 908-537-7559, fax 908-537-7669.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Born in Nebraska, Erin Belieu (1965- ) earned an MA from Boston University and an MFA from Ohio State University. Belieu is the author of four poetry collections, including Slant Six (Copper Canyon Press, 2014).

Learn more about Erin Beleiu at The Poetry Foundation.