Catching a Ride To Work
He stood on the corner by the posh department store
Clutching his brown-bagged lunch.
Behind him stood the mannequins
Dressed in their cold stares and upper class sophistication.
He felt their plaster pulses, pushing him away
As though they didn’t deem him worthy to
Wait before their exclusivity.
“Go across to the Five and Dime," they taunted.
Their fake smiles froze, as Wind’s snowy bits of artistry
Sought shelter ‘neath his blue-collared existence.
It seemed these flawless flakes felt no shame
In touching his belabored skin.
He held the road with his eyes
Hoping its macadam mirage of promise would insulate him
From the glare of these stagnant accusers
Who modeled their self-righteousness for the worthy.
He thought of his kids who forced his tired form
Out onto the 6:00A.M. canvas.
He fought the urge to melt into the cold concrete
That jeered up at him. “Come on. Lie down. They’ll never miss you.”
Then two lights blazed the flurried darkness,
And to an ageless audience
The man auditioned with a smile. (An old routine yet well performed.)
He’d gladly leave the stage to actors more refined.
The sole chauffeur he’d ever known
Spoke in rave reviews.
“Hi, Joe! Sorry I’m late.”
“That’s OK,” the old boy lied. He felt the factory calling.
Perhaps today, they’d zoom right past that mechanized enslavement of his spirit.
With one last glance at the ladies in lace,
He supposed that he, too, was in costume.
“Pay day, Joe!” the young voice nudged
Drags on his smoke foul the air.
“Yea,” Joe sighed, eyes tearing on second-hand sorrow.
“I’m gonna’ win the big one, ya’ know,” his rider chided.
“Well, I hate to disappoint you
But I’ve got the lucky ticket right here,”
Joe teased, as he pledged his shirt pocket.
They laughed right along with the worn out Chevy.
“ The big fight’s tonight.
You ain’t gonna miss it?”
“I ain’t missed one yet,” Joe replied.
“I got me a front row seat.”
“Yea? Me too!” Joe laughed. “An ice cold beer’s just wait’n.”
The rider grinned. “I can almost taste it.”
Funny, how their hollow rhetoric soothed with its mediocrity.
Joe’s large, calloused hand found the brown, pocketed beads.
(The ones he’d had since first communion, many years ago.)
He sighed submissively to their sweet surrogate touch.
“You’re not alone, Joe. You’re not alone,” they chanted.
He felt a twinge of pity for all the mannequins
Who reigned o’re all the vacuumed vanities of the world,
For, neither would they know
The Friday-night flights of the arm-chaired welterweight,
Nor the Love that kept him rising from that chair.
(My father was a blue-collar worker who was devoted to family. I often sensed an inferiority complex lurking somewhere beneath the surface. We were raised in a very small house on a very tight budget and our father lived for the weekends. We spent lots of time at State Parks and other places that didn’t cost money and I owe my love of the outdoors to him. Our mom and the Catholic Church held us together as a family and our education was a priority. Dad didn’t want us to end up on an assembly line.
In the fifties, after we purchased our first black and white TV, we would all gather in the living room on Friday evenings and watch The Talent Scouts and Dragnet before the weekly boxing matches sent the rest of us to the kitchen table to play cards. Dad drank his one-a-week beer and watched the fights, sometimes falling asleep in his special chair. I used to imagine him dreaming of being declared champion at Madison Square Garden, yet he was always a champion to me.
He wished he could have been a better provider and yet my two sisters, my brother and I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful childhood. Dad’s name wasn’t Joe, though I thought the name Joe suited my poem. His name was Leo Howard Grimm, born in Cumberland, MD in 1910. He went to St. Patrick’s Elementary School and graduated from LaSalle High School.)