The third line on my brow—
It arrived last night.

The crosshatches around the mouth—
They speak for me.

My hair surrenders to wind.
My fuck-you finger is romancing my thumb.

The slouch, the crippled penmanship,
My earlobes of Buddha,
The smile that reveals a Stonehenge
Of uncivilized eating.

Thus, I seek work
In a very tall building.

“I see you were once a colonel,”
Says the suit behind the desk.

“Corporal,” I answer.
“That’s a misspelling.”

I breathe in, breathe out—
Look, a sharpener on the wall.

“I see that you raised chinchillas…”
The suit looks up.
“What the heck—your shirt!”

The tip of my felt-tip
Is bleeding from the pocket
Of my white dress shirt.

“It’s nothing,”
I tell him. “It’ll stop in a second.”

I view the red stain,
As a sort of Rorschach test—
Is that a poorly rendered valentine?

I’m shown the door.
The elevator is a hush going down.
When I sigh, the valentine inflates.
I’m unemployable, I’m of no use.

I shudder from the cold and look back:
At the revolving door,
More people going out than coming in.

Gary Soto

Gary Soto’s forthcoming book is Meatballs for the People: Proverbs to Chew On, due from Red Hen Press in fall 2017. The Gary Soto Literary Museum is located at Fresno City College, where he began to write poetry in spring 1972. He lives in Berkeley, California.

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