For Harvey Shapiro

I stand and listen, head bowed,
to my inner complaint.
Persons passing by think
I am searching for a lost coin.
You’re fired, I yell inside
after an especially bad episode.
I’m letting you go without notice
or terminal pay. You just lost
another chance to make good.
But then I watch myself standing at the exit,
depressed and about to leave,
and wave myself back in wearily,
for who else could I get in my place
to do the job in dark, airless conditions?

Note to Poetry Out Loud students: This poem begins with an epigraph that must be recited. Omitting the epigraph will affect your accuracy score.
  • David Ignatow, “Self-Employed” from Against the Evidence: Selected Poems 1934-1994. Copyright © 1993 by David Ignatow. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

  • Source: Against the Evidence: Selected Poems 1934-1994 (Wesleyan University Press, 1993)

Poet Bio

What People are Saying

"I actually enjoy poetry! When I started participating in the Poetry Out Loud competition in the 9th grade I hated poetry, but as I continued to participate over the years I grew a love and appreciation for the art form, and poetry is now a part of my identity."
Irvin Mason, Jr.
2016 USVI POL Champion