[Passing the shop after school...]

By Charles Reznikoff 1894–1976 Charles Reznikoff
Passing the shop after school, he would look up at the sign
    and go on, glad that his own life had to do with books.
Now at night when he saw the grey in his parents’ hair and
    heard their talk of that day’s worries and the next:
lack of orders, if orders, lack of workers, if workers, lack of
    goods, if there were workers and goods, lack of orders
for the tenth time he said, “I’m going in with you: there’s more
    money in business.”
His father answered, “Since when do you care about money?
    You don’t know what kind of a life you’re going into—
    but you have always had your own way.”

He went out selling: in the morning he read the Arrival of
    Buyers in The Times; he packed half a dozen samples into
    a box and went from office to office.
Others like himself, sometimes a crowd, were waiting to thrust
    their cards through a partition opening.

When he ate, vexations were forgotten for a while. A quarter
    past eleven was the time to go down the steps to Holz’s
    lunch counter.   
He would mount one of the stools. The food, steaming
    fragrance, just brought from the kitchen, would be
    dumped into the trays of the steam-table.
Hamburger steak, mashed potatoes, onions and gravy, or a
    knackwurst and sauerkraut; after that, a pudding with a
    square of sugar and butter sliding from the top and red
    fruit juice dripping over the saucer.
He was growing fat.

From The Poems of Charles Reznikoff by Charles Reznikoff, edited by Seamus Cooney. Reprinted by permission of Black Sparrow Books, an imprint of David R. Godine, Publisher, Inc. Copyright 2005 by Charles Reznikoff.

Source: Poems 1918-1975: The Complete Poems of Charles Reznikoff (Black Sparrow Press, 1977)

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Poet Charles Reznikoff 1894–1976

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

Subjects Activities, Jobs & Working, Social Commentaries, Money & Economics, Life Choices

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Charles  Reznikoff


Emerson remarked that the best writers often have the shortest biographies. The genius “draws up the ladder after him,” and the world, which had consigned him to obscurity during his lifetime, “sees the works and asks in vain for a history.”
Whatever judgment may ultimately be passed upon him, not much more than his works is ever likely to be known of Charles Reznikoff. He left no fervent disciples. The record he wished to . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Activities, Jobs & Working, Social Commentaries, Money & Economics, Life Choices

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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