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To My Father's Business

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Leo bends over his desk   
Gazing at a memorandum   
While Stuart stands beside him   
With a smile, saying,   
"Leo, the order for those desks   
Came in today   
From Youngstown Needle and Thread!"   
C. Loth Inc., there you are   
Like Balboa the conqueror   
Of those who want to buy office furniture   
Or bar fixtures   
In nineteen forty in Cincinnati, Ohio!   
Secretaries pound out   
Invoices on antique typewriters—   
Dactyllographs   
And fingernail biters.   
I am sitting on a desk   
Looking at my daddy   
Who is proud of but feels unsure about   
Some aspects of his little laddie.   
I will go on to explore   
Deep and/or nonsensical themes   
While my father's on the dark hardwood floor   
Hit by a couple of Ohio sunbeams.   
Kenny, he says, some day you'll work in the store.   
But I felt "never more" or "never ever"   
Harvard was far away   
World War Two was distant   
Psychoanalysis was extremely expensive   
All of these saved me from you.   
C. Loth you made my father happy   
I saw his face shining   
He laughed a lot, working in you   
He said to Miss Ritter   
His secretary   
"Ritt, this is my boy, Kenny!"   
"Hello there Kenny," she said   
My heart in an uproar   
I loved you but couldn't think   
Of staying with you   
I can see the virtues now   
That could come from being in you   
A sense of balance   
Compromise and acceptance—   
Not isolated moments of brilliance   
Like a girl without a shoe,   
But someone that you   
Care for every day—   
Need for customers and the economy   
Don't go away.   
There were little pamphlets   
Distributed in you   
About success in business   
Each about eight to twelve pages long   
One whole series of them   
All ended with the words   
"P.S. He got the job"   
One a story about a boy who said,   
"I swept up the street, Sir,   
Before you got up." Or   
"There were five hundred extra    catalogues   
So I took them to people in the city who have a dog"—   
P.S. He got the job.   
I didn't get the job   
I didn't think that I could do the job   
I thought I might go crazy in the job   
Staying in you   
You whom I could love   
But not be part of   
The secretaries clicked   
Their Smith Coronas closed at five p.m.   
And took the streetcars to Kentucky then   
And I left too.

Source: Poetry

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This poem originally appeared in the January 2000 issue of Poetry magazine

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To My Father's Business

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