April 9, 2017

Amy Miller

WHAT I WOULD TELL MY DAUGHTER ON HER FIRST DAY OF WORK

Don’t think of him as a father
despite sweet hugs and did you miss me
after trips, his arm wrapping
your shoulder in the hall as he exalts
your hair, your dress, then moves on
to the others, this family of women
you work with. The look his wife
will give you while she makes the coffee
at a weekend meeting in their house
has nothing to do with you. Then gifts—
silver necklace from Italy, Balinese orange
sarong. Then subpoenas, a lawyer
who will coach you to sit on the stand
and swear he knew nothing. You’ll leave
the courthouse on crutches—is this
absurd enough yet? Falling in your heels?—
and now you’re unsure of how much
shit you’re splashed with. Then
one night when you’re working late
standing at the postage machine,
he’ll hug you, sad and grateful,
and for a moment you’ll feel
sorry—his worry, his losses, divorce,
a twisted-up life, his angry sons
older than you—and he’ll kiss you
and pull you in, his body
a wall too warm, his hips
a rock stairway, his tongue slithering
into your mouth. You’ll
shove him and walk out
to your car and drive home
in one swift, unbroken movement
powered by a flywheel set
violently spinning, and it won’t
be until you’re miles away
that you’ll pound
the steering wheel and yell
I am so stupid. For a moment,
you’ll believe the late work
did it, or the dress,
or your hair, which you see now
in the rear-view mirror, wild
like one of those monsters
who turn men to granite
with a single look. But look
again—it’s you, your hair, your face
loved by everyone who loves you.
Remember that. You are nineteen.
There’s good out there somewhere.
You will find it, beyond the dark guardrail
your headlights are burning through now.

Poets Respond
April 9, 2017

[download audio]

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Amy Miller: “The news of Mike Pence’s “Billy Graham rules,” including his policy of never eating a meal alone with any woman except his wife, prompted a New Yorker article on the larger impact of gender-restrictive rules enforced in his offices. One rule is that only male assistants are allowed to work with him after hours, presumably to avoid a compromising situation. This makes me livid—if you’re that worried about being tempted to have sex with a woman who works for you, the problem isn’t her. It’s been nearly 40 years since a male boss preyed on me like that, but the experience is still an indelible part of my working life; it influences choices I make on the job every day.” (website)

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