Working Girl Can't Win: And Other Poems

Working Girl Can't Win: And Other Poems

by Deborah Garrison

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Deborah Garrison, whose work as an editor and writer has enlivened the pages of The New Yorker for more than a decade, evokes the characters and events of her everyday life with intense feeling and, more important, conjures up the universal dilemmas and pleasures of a young woman trying to come to terms with love and work.

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Deborah Garrison, whose work as an editor and writer has enlivened the pages of The New Yorker for more than a decade, evokes the characters and events of her everyday life with intense feeling and, more important, conjures up the universal dilemmas and pleasures of a young woman trying to come to terms with love and work.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Garrison, a New York-based poet and senior editor at The New Yorker, has produced this slim volume of highly accessible poetry: the talented observations of a bright young career woman preoccupied with men, sex, clothes, domesticity, and office politics. One only wishes that Garrison would use her vivid skills with the language ("the sun's fuzzy mouth sucking the day back") to explore issues and scenery that more deeply touch the reader's soul. She's capable of gorgeous images; of peonies she writes, "I used to hate/ their furry scent, their fat cheeks packed/ with held breath, the way they'd crumple open/ later, like women in tears." And her poems ring with inner rhythms and off-rhymes, along with smug, self-confident humor: "Are her roots/ rural, right-leaning? Is she Jewish,/ self-hating? Past her sell-by date,/ or still ovulating?" Garrison entertains but shallowly. Recommended with some reservations for larger public libraries.Judy Clarence, California State Univ. Lib., Hayward
From the Publisher
"An intense, intelligent and wonderfully sly book of poems that should appeal as much to the general reader as to the poetry devotee."
—The New York Times Book Review

"With their short lines, sneaky rhymes, and casual leaps of metaphor, Garrison's poems have a Dickinsonian intensity, and the Amherst recluse's air of independent-minded, lightly populated singleness. Many a working girl will recognize herself in the poems' running heroine, and male readers will part with her company reluctantly."—John Updike

"Wry, sexy, appealing — with a wonderful lyric candor."—Elle

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Modern Library Paperbacks
Sold by:
Random House
File size:
2 MB

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Read an Excerpt

The Firemen

God forgive me--

It's the firemen,
leaning in the firehouse garage
with their sleeves rolled up
on the hottest day of the year.

As usual, the darkest one is handsomest.
The oldest is handsomest.
The one with the thin, wiry arms is handsomest.
The young one already going bald is handsomest.

And so on.
Every day I pass them at their station:
the word sexy wouldn't do them justice.
Such idle men are divine--

especially in summer, when my hair
sticks to the back of my neck,
a dirty wind from the subway grate
blows my skirt up, and I feel vulgar,

lifting my hair, gathering it together,
tying it back while they watch
as a kind of relief.
Once, one of them walked beside me

to the corner. Looked into my eyes.
He said, "Will I never see you again?"
Gutsy, I thought.
I'm afraid not, I thought.

What I said was I'm sorry.
But how could he look into my eyes
if I didn't look equally into his?
I'm sorry: as though he'd come close, as though
this really were a near miss.

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

Husband, Not at Home

A soldier, a soldier,
gone to the litigation wars,

or down to Myrtle Beach
to play golf with Dad for the weekend.

Why does the picture of him
tramping the emerald grass in those

silly shoes or flinging his tie over his shoulder
to eat a take-out dinner at his desk--

the carton a squat pagoda in the forest
of legal pads on which he drafts,

in all block caps, every other line,
his motions and replies--fill her

with obscure delight?
Must be the strangeness: his life

strange to her, and hers to him,
as she prowls the apartment with a vacuum

in boxers (his) and bra, or flings
herself across the bed

with three novels to choose from
in the delicious, sports-free

silence. Her dinner a bowl
of cereal, taken cranelike, on one

leg, hip snug to the kitchen
counter. It makes her smile to think

he'd disapprove, to think she likes him
almost best this way: away.

She'll let the cat jump up
to lap the extra milk, and no one's
home to scold her.

Worked Late on a Tuesday Night

Midtown is blasted out and silent,
drained of the crowd and its doggy day
I trample the scraps of deli lunches
some ate outdoors as they stared dumbly
or hooted at us career girls-the haggard
beauties, the vivid can-dos, open raincoats aflap
in the March wind as we crossed to and fro
in front of the Public Library.

Never thought you'd be one of them,
did you, little lady?
Little Miss Phi Beta Kappa,
with your closetful of pleated
skirts, twenty-nine till death do us
part! Don't you see?
The good schoolgirl turns thirty,
forty, singing the song of time management
all day long, lugging the briefcase
home. So at 10:00 PM
you're standing here
with your hand in the air,

cold but too stubborn to reach
into your pocket for a glove, cursing
the freezing rain as though it were
your difficulty. It's pathetic,
and nobody's fault but
your own. Now

the tears,
down into the collar.
Cabs, cabs, but none for hire.
I haven't had dinner; I'm not half
of what I meant to be.
Among other things, the mother
of three. Too tired, tonight,
to seduce the father.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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