"I need to feel that the language in my poems is alive, in the sense of talking on the phone to a friend, sharing gossip."
Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1965, Deborah Garrison joined the editorial staff of THE NEW YORKER magazine after graduating from Brown University. The poems in her first collection, A WORKING GIRL CAN'T WIN, juxtapose our working and personal realities with honesty and humor. She lives in Montclair, New Jersey.
"Please Fire Me"
Here comes another alpha male,
and all the other alphas
are snorting and pawing,
kicking up puffs of acrid dust
while the silly little hens
clatter back and forth
on quivering claws and raise
a titter about the fuss.
Here comes another alpha male --
a man's man, a dealmaker,
holds tanks of liquor,
charms them pantsless at lunch:
I've never been sicker.
Do I have to stare into his eyes
and sympathize? If I want my job
I do. Well I think I'm through
with the working world,
through with warming eggs
and being Zenlike in my detachment
from all things Ego.
I'd like to go
somewhere else entirely,
and I don't mean
"Father, R.I.P., Sums Me Up at Twenty-Three"
She has no head for politics,
craves good jewelry, trusts too readily,
marries too early. Then
one by one she sends away her friends
and stands apart, smug sapphire,
her answer to everything a slender
zero, a silent shrug -- and every day
still hears me say she'll never be pretty.
Instead she reads novels, instead her belt
matches her shoes. She is master
of the condolence letter, and knows
how to please a man with her mouth:
Good. Nose too large, eyes too closely set,
hair not glorious blonde, not her mother's red,
nor the glossy black her younger sister has,
the little raven I loved best.
What makes you want "to go / somewhere else entirely"?
1. In "Please Fire Me," the poet talks about people as if they were particular kinds of animals. What does her choice of animals suggest about her attitude toward her situation? About her attitude toward herself?
2. What might have led Deborah Garrison to write "Father, R.I.P. . . ."? Explain why you would or would not write such a poem.
1. Based on what Deborah Garrison describes in her poem "Please Fire Me," write new "rules for the workplace" or "rules for the world."
2. Suppose you were Deborah Garrison's boss or coworker. What would you do after reading "Please Fire Me"? Describe or role-play the conversation you would have with her.