“The Firing” by Marsh Muirhead

Marsh Muirhead


I fired my secretary today. It felt like murder,
although I’ve never murdered anybody.
I’ve never fired anybody either and
it wasn’t easy. I’ve tried before.
It was always the right day
early in the morning,
my list of grievances sufficient,
but by coffee break she seemed quite convivial,
her faults, perhaps, imagined, and she was
reprieved—day after day after day,
despite her poor grammar and procrastination,
her petty gossiping and unnecessary overtime,
the unauthorized purchases and internet surfing.
These I would enumerate, lying in bed,
waking from dreams of murder or assault,
too much water, not enough air, breathless,
covered in sweat. I rationalized her shortcomings
as my own—not enough clarity or direction,
a failure of discipline or training.
But by the light of day the faults were hers again—
all the things she didn’t do as I requested,
all the things she did that were a waste of time
or insufficient or quite plainly—prohibited.

I fired my secretary today. By three o’clock
I had cased the house, considered witnesses,
checked the locks, confirmed the escape route,
still queasy and unsure, but determined to be a man,
do the right thing, fire her ass—then knew I wasn’t
that kind of man. Kindness was what was needed
and I was calmed by the patience I had exercised,
by my own suffering on her behalf. The clock
ticked on, the gun was loaded, I wavered, thought
myself both justified and cruel, considered a hit man—
a carefully crafted note which I could hand her as
I made my escape, a cowardly dog. In the final
minutes, she chatted away on the telephone,
cheerfully unaware of the grizzly bear outside
her tent, Raskolnikov at the door. Then, she
put away her things—pens, memo pad, paper clips.
She switched off her computer, turned,
and looked at me. I fired. Her mouth dropped
open. The room filled with the stench of gunpowder.
I turned and raced for the door, forgetting
my hat and coat, hoping it wasn’t raining,
trusting that the getaway car was out there,
that I had the keys.

from Rattle #33, Summer 2010
Tribute to Humor


Marsh Muirhead: “We have an island in the Mississippi here, three acres of pine and birch, surrounded by the flowing river, the sounds of loons, crickets, owls. My literary and musical friends have declared it The Island Republic. In a hammock, under the influence of wood smoke and an excellent Merlot, I achieved the tranquility in which I was able to recollect the powerful emotions surrounding the situation which, then, gave rise to this poem.” (web)

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