For Holly Friesen
From a corner deli on the northwest corner
of 41st and Lex for a couple of years
the southeast corner of the Chanin Building
I carried lunches, in bags, in a row along
my left arm, swimming through noonday
crowds, a dolphin in a crush of tuna,
catty-corner, e.g. the Chrysler building
across the 42nd street intersection
with the exquisite custom wood
elevator doors no two the same, and the
very watchful staff of doormen
who force all deliveries to the freight
elevator. My (meager) income was
directly proportional to the number of
lunches I delivered during a 2-hour period
so refused to wait for the freight elevator
always pretending that I worked for
the company to which I was delivering,
bringing my own lunch back to the office.
I was 23 years old.
One time (not the only time by a long shot,
aside from the most attractive details) a
very shapely, well dressed and coiffed
fashionable woman in her early 30s
asked me what it was that I really did.
I really deliver lunches, I said.
“No, ” she said, I mean what are you?”
I’m a man who delivers lunches.
“Are you an actor?”
No, I deliver lunches.
She gave me a $5 tip, 5x the usual.
And now, when someone asks me
“what do you do?” I reply that I’m in charge
of technology for a division of a bank
that more resembles a small professional
corporation than a bank and is essentially
a financial consulting firm to public agencies
as clients, the staff a creamy selection
of mostly Ivy League post graduate degrees
but also Berkeley and other UC campuses
mostly MBAs, and good people every one of them.
Except me. I don’t have a college degree.
That’s what I do.
Sometimes I ask myself what I really do.
The answer is always ambiguous.
I can never put a stake through its heart.
So I always lie about what I do
because I don’t know what the truth is.
Since I’m lying anyway, and looking back
I see that I was just too stupid to see that
a very successful and beautiful older woman
in the Chrysler Building, New York City,
my new home, my Canterbury, might actually be
interested in me; to get things started
I only needed tell a different lie,
one that represented how I felt about
myself instead of how I pseudo-objectively
fit into the economic system and said,
“I’m a poet,” she would likely have interacted
further with me in ways that may have been
enjoyable for both of us: it may even have
become apparent to me, who had (?) never
been able to accept that someone might
actually be interested in me without some
philosophical proof or at least demonstration.
So I sometimes also lie the another way.
I’m a poet.