Interview

 

a couple weeks ago

isolated in my room

i had watercolor-painted a landscape

of me sending the bat signal

over the city

maybe a hero would come save me

when i came back from a bike ride

the cat had ripped it

spilled a cup of water over it

 

now i waited in the lobby

on the seventh floor

of a sprawling office building

from the outside it had

looked like a prison

with foreboding and lopsided sections

 

a set of hardcover books

were stood, half open

on a table beside

the plushy chair i sat in

 

wet umbrella at my feet

my heart felt broken open

like an ink blot pouring rain

 

the receptionist for the publisher

repeatedly answered a phone

 

the lights were going out

over my life, right when i had arrived

in the room with the bright Cezanne paintings

the pears, and the grapes, still crisp

 

the books

reminded me

of an exercise i had done in a college course

at the professor’s instruction,

we designed our own book covers,

printed them out,

taped them over physical books

 

i had looked at the self-made books

in a glass showcase

in the college art building

when campus was abandoned

 

all the other students had left for the holidays

but i instinctually avoided family

 

the book mock-ups were not quite believable

with pieces of scotch tape sticking off the ends

“why even print them out”, i thought

“just look at them on the computer screen”

i never did the optional mock-up

just handed in the files

and strolled down to the river

to sit in the pine needles and sketch

 

the books at the publisher now, though

were the real deal

thick, velvety dust covers, embossed letters

spines that looked like they would crack satisfyingly

the kind of book i never bought,

costing about as much as two days of food

 

they were the books i’d read about in The Believer

brush stroke art zooming around the page

some accomplished person talking about it

“do i want to read this book?”, i’d think

i was more accustomed to finding old books

on stoops and in thrift stores

maybe i’d prefer to read a friend’s

Mead spiral notebook of his or her own writing

 

it was a recession

i felt harder than an avocado pit inside

and now i was in the heart

of grinding business, in Midtown New York City

 

people seemed squeaky clean in new leather shoes

their leg mechanizations impressively optimal

like gleaming Ford Model T’s driving

out of a factory garage

 

a man in a bright red, shiny dress shirt

came for me

baby boomer, glasses, balding

no tie, shirt tucked in

we walked to his office

 

he furrowed his brow

as he looked at my resume,

a textbook example of

the surprising dubiousness of interviewers

which i was fast becoming accustomed to

 

he asked me to answer

30 questions, rapid fire

i went with it

the sidewalk was a looped conveyor belt

i ran to keep up

Dunkin’ Donuts coffee

pushed the blood vessels

up against the windshields of my eyes

 

there was a question about baseball at the end

 

the definition of a fuddy duddy to me

he reminded me of a comic strip character

in the funnies

 

it left a bad taste when he smirked

at the bullet points in my resume

he was looking into my life on paper

and i knew absolutely nothing about him

i had worked for a woman

was there supposed to be something funny about that?

i felt like a knight with my steel chest plate off

he was poised in a full coat of armor

 

jesus christ, i needed a job

why couldn’t he just open the gate

and let me do the work?

 

when leaving, in the hall

i asked, “can i have your business card

to follow up?”

 

as i emerged onto the sunny street

with cabs and people rushing around

i felt the thick, off-white paper,

almost fabric-like, looked at the

bold orange and black logo, flicked the stiff edge with my thumbnail

then i dropped it into a sewer, kept walking

 


Dan is a writer who plunged out into the world, not knowing what was coming. To make sense of where he’s been, he tells film-like stories that are filled with introspection and empirical analysis. The above poem is from Dan’s new chapbook, ‘after you say what’s true…’ (more info at dtarnowski.com). Dan’s full-sized poetry book ‘Longing for Populous Empathy’ can also be printed and shipped to you at your demand, if you type the right keys and click some buttons over at amazon.