Did you sneeze?
Yes, I rid myself of the imposter inside me.
Did you iron your shirt?
Yes, I used the steam of mother's hate.
Did you wash your hands?
Yes, I learned my hygiene from a raccoon.
I prayed on my knees, and my knees answered with pain.
I gargled. I polished my shoes until I saw who I was.
I inflated my résumé by employing my middle name.
I walked to my interview, early,
The sun like a ring on an electric stove.
I patted my hair when I entered the wind of a revolving door.
The guard said, For a guy like you, it's the 19th floor.
The economy was up. Flags whipped in every city plaza
In America. This I saw for myself as I rode the elevator,
Empty because everyone had a job but me.
Did you clean your ears?
Yes, I heard my fate in the drinking fountain's idiotic drivel.
Did you slice a banana into your daily mush?
I added a pinch of salt, two raisins to sweeten my breath.
Did you remember your pen?
I remembered my fingers when the elevator opened.
I shook hands that dripped like a dirty sea.
I found a chair and desk. My name tag said my name.
Through the glass ceiling, I saw the heavy rumps of CEOs.
Outside my window, the sun was a burning stove,
All of us pushing papers
To keep it going.
Source: This poem originally appeared in the July 2001 issue of Poetry magazine.
Retrieved 2 September 2013, www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/30461#poem