Work Song

By Joshua Mehigan b. 1969 Joshua Mehigan
This fastening, unfastening, and heaving—
this is our life. Whose life is it improving?
It topples some. Some others it will toughen.
Work is the safest way to fail, and often
the simplest way to love a son or daughter.
We come. We carp. We’re fired. We worry later.

That man is strange. His calipers are shiny.
His hands are black. For lunch he brings baloney,
and, offered coffee, answers, “Thank you, no.”
That man, with nothing evil left to do
and two small skills to stir some interest up,
fits in the curtained corner of a shop.

The best part of our life is disappearing
into the john to sneak a smoke, or staring
at screaming non-stop mills, our eyes unfocused,
or standing judging whose sick joke is sickest.
Yet nothing you could do could break our silence.
We are a check. Do not expect a balance.

That is a wrathful man becoming older,
a nobody like us, turned mortgage holder.
We stay until the bell. That man will stay
ten minutes more, so no one can complain.
Each day, by then, he’s done exactly ten.
Ten what, exactly, no one here can say.

Source: Poetry (July/August 2008).

 Joshua  Mehigan

Biography

Poet Joshua Mehigan grew up in upstate New York and received a BA from Purchase College and an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. Influenced by the poetry of Philip Larkin, Jorge Luis Borges, and Edgar Bowers, Mehigan writes intelligent, morally complex lyric poems shaped by a nuanced attention to rhyme and meter. Critic Adam Kirsch praised The Optimist in a review for the New York Sun, observing, “Mr. Mehigan is Frost-like in . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Growing Old, Disappointment & Failure, Activities, Jobs & Working

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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