Race to Work, 1968
by Jo Taylor

At fifteen I picked up my first job, just a mile away.
I would dash each day to the blinking lights,
Of his diner.
He was a big shot with the long green Cadillac,
And he wore white.
His floors were spiffy clean.
Money jingled in his cash register, and
I was caught in his world
Like the ball in the pocket of the backroom pool table.
I served barbecue and burgers and dogs and fries
And put my dime in his juke box to hear
About painting it black.
Patrons left their change on the tables,
And I swept it into my pockets
To jingle like wind chimes and to quicken my step.
And then they came,
A window just for them,
For barbecue and burgers and dogs and fries.
I saw their faces,
And my steps slowed,
And the money no longer jingled in my pocket.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo was taken in 1971, when I served as editor of the college yearbook.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Race to Work, 1968” was inspired by one of my students who fell in love with Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, who now lives in Atlanta.  In her year-long independent study of Trethewey, the student presented several of the poet’s poems, including “History Lesson.”  After seeing Silver Birch Press’s challenge to write about a first job experience, I decided to write my own.


Jo Taylor
 has been an English teacher for 35 years, and her favorite genre to share with students is poetry. In her classes, she provides opportunities for students to experiment with writing poetry, and, in doing that, she finds herself writing along with the students. She is encouraged by her students’ recognition in published journals for the past several years and has decided to follow their example by submitting her work as well. Besides writing poetry, Jo enjoys traveling, which provides impetus and encouragement for additional creative writing and art.