Saturday, March 14, 2009

Joseph Millar: Fat City

A few days ago, I talked about Joseph Millar's book of poetry, Fortune. Now I'd like to call attention to his earlier book of poetry called Overtime.

Once again, I think the best way to review a book of poetry is to quote a good poem. Judge for yourself.

Millar writes about a lot more than just working in the trades (and so does Mark Turpin, who I mentioned yesterday), but in keeping with the subject matter of this blog, I'd like to post this sample, the heart of a telephone cable installer.

And if you like this, there's more. It's easy to buy his book, and it costs less than one good pair of linesman's pliers.

Fat City
For San Francisco

Outside the manhole near China Basin
after pulling cable all afternoon,
unwinding the black-jacket copper
one foot at a time
from the city's dark ovaries,
and watching the office girls hurry past,
glancing sideways at their profiles in the plate glass,
I don't want to be anywhere but here, on the sidewalk,
smelling french bread
while the sun goes down.

Behind me, the blue stairs of a church,
a peroxide hooker waving to someone
climbing onto the streetcar.
All the women I have wanted since I came to work today
will soon be combing their long hair down
into the night unpinning its skirts
over their hallways and doors.

The fat pigeons hustle for popcorn
under the benches of South Park
and even the homeless man by the bridge,
hunched over the cage of his shopping cart,
has a fifth of tokay
ablaze in his fist like a star.

(From Overtime, copyright © 2001 by Joseph Millar.)

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