Archives for posts with tag: Poems

HOWARTH Silver Birch period photo
Keeping Afloat
by Stephen Howarth

I quit school, or school quit me, and
I needed an income. There was no grand plan
beyond the intention to be a writer,
being sure my career would be with the pen;

but penury demanded pounds and pence.
A chance arose, and within days I was
a milkman, an invisible but essential backbone
of the community. With my alarm set for 3 a.m.,

I was daily in the dairy by 3.30 to load the milk float —
my wagon! — with a ton of fresh-bottled liquid.
My hair was long then, worn carefree in
a ponytail to halfway down my back . . .

. . . and there were bright pearly mornings when
I gazed out over the vale, trees punctuating
the sea of mist below, and at the hilltop, free of traffic,
I released the brake and sped to 70 miles an hour,

propelled by that massive weight of milk in
a float designed to do 20 max. Gliding to a halt, I ran up
the paths, put down the orders, picked up the empties,
and gave so much away: potatoes, bread,

extra items I forgot to record — and when queried,
had to pay for from my hard-earned wage. Once,
reversing inadvertently, I crushed the foot
of a colleague. Once, I was surprised by a sleepy

customer who appeared dreamlike in her nightdress,
reaching to take the milk from my hands.
Once, I was charmed by a little girl who walked
together with her sister as I ran up the path:

“Hello big milkman ponytail man!” I returned her smile —
then, as I ran back to the float, heard her puzzlement:
“But — mans don’t have ponytails!” “Hush,” said her sister.
Now the ponytail’s long gone. The pen delivered.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I’m sorry that no photo exists of me as “Big Milkman Ponytail Man,” one of my proudest titles. The registration plate on this float shows it was operational a year later than my first job, and unlike this lucky milkman I never had an assistant; but otherwise it’s very like the one I used every day. Loading a ton of milk by hand and running to make every delivery was a great way to keep fit — better in that regard than writing . . .

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’ve often been slightly doubtful that a poem can write itself; an internal voice reminds me that “poiema,” the Ancient Greek root of poem, means “a thing made”: words carefully chosen, stanzas carefully crafted to meet one or another set of rules. But “Keeping Afloat” is an exception — not solitary but unusual for me — and it was instantly evoked by the “My First Job” prompt. It obeys no formal structure and really is a poem that seemed to write itself. The episodes within it are all true; the major one omitted is the recurring nightmare I had at the time — of my milk float crashing through my bedroom door to tell me I was late for work.

HOWARTH Silver Birch current photo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born and brought up in England, Stephen Howarth is part-English, part-Scottish, and half-Shetland. He has a Master’s degree with Distinction in creative writing from Nottingham Trent University. He has been a professional author of history almost all his working life. His subjects are wide-ranging but he is particularly known for naval history, notably including To Shining Sea, his history of the U.S. Navy. Currently, he has 15 major books and more than 25 minor ones to his credit. His poetry has been published in the English language and in the Shetland dialect. He has a special liking for Southern California and its invigorating poetical community.

Peddling Sweets in the Back Bay
By Sabrina Hicks

I wasn’t allowed to spend the summer
in town, wandering the deluge of low tide
and cotton candy, carousels and stoners, so
I lied about my age and got a job.

I made cookies and ate hunks of dough,
drank from the soda fountain, told friends
to come for free samples but not if they saw
my boss, throwing around his bangs and

shuffling in his flip-flops. He lied about
his age, too, though he made himself
younger. A few weeks after work, he got
stoned and passed me a joint. I came clean

I was only 15. Close enough he said.
He told me I was pretty. I told him I had
two older brothers and a mean streak
and it was best if he just f**ked off.

He left me alone after that to scoop dough
in the back room. At the beach, everything
came in waves: customers, cash, puberty.
People washed up like seashells,

blonds with lemon-streaked hair, smelling
of sugar and sex under a coat of Coppertone.
They’d walk in barefoot, slapping the side
of their head that still held the ocean, order

macadamia nut or chocolate chip cookies
until only a pile of oatmeal and raisin remained,
saved for the old men and toddlers. I gained
five pounds, upped a bra size, read people like

books, watched the parade of posturing and struts,
tattoos and scars, flicking cigarettes with bad form.
No one saw me behind the counter, but I saw the
world that summer in the back bay.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Summer of 1987 (California).


Sabrina Hicks
lives in the Southwest with her family. Her work has appeared in Writer’s Digest, Gyroscope Review, Spelk Fiction, Panoply, Poetry Breakfast and The Drabble.

by Allison Carvalho

My first job was dull and I did most of my work on the couch
I was a lady of the night
While the parents went off to play.

My first job groomed me for suburbancy
Prepared me for the life my lady lineage had lived
My first job had given me a stamp of adulthood
At 13 years old.

My first job was domestic.

You see,
My first job was riddled with ethics of care
Patronizing fathers
And mothers who couldn’t do it all.

My first job marked the moment between girl and woman,
And yet for so many women
It isn’t considered work.

IMAGE: “Young woman seated” by Amedeo Modlgliani (1918).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Allison Carvalho is a student, researcher, and aspiring adult. Her poetry tries to acknowledge how societal constructions/assumptions inform personal experience. Her work ironically covers relationships, gender oppression, emotionality, grief, and the occasional reference to the evils of capitalism. She is always a week behind on her word of the day calendar. She likes using the word “she” a lot. And if you knew her, you might only maybe guess she wrote this poem.

Newspaper Carrier
by Terri Miller-Carrara

Newspaper carriers in the 70s
were predominantly

I was the first
GIRL carrier in
my district.

Prizes for the most
newspapers sold were:
               hockey sticks
               hockey pucks
               baseball bats and balls

So I got CASH
when I won.

Once I won an
AM Radio, I had this
thru high school.

Oh…how proud I was
of the radio.

To have had my first job.
First Girl Newspaper Carrier.
It has been one major thrill ride.

IMAGE: Papergirl (image found online — does not depict the author).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Terri Miller was born in Central Falls, Rhode Island. She retired to Florida in 2015. She is a country girl at heart. She has been writing since grade school. She has always enjoyed writing.  In 2013, after the death of her brother, her poetry became darkened.  Around 2015, the darkness lifted. She is a lover of life’s simpler things. Her inspiration for poetry is rooted in faith and family, in love, nature, and words.She believes life is poetry waiting to be written!  What she looks at seems to make her write. She can’t wait to get her thoughts written down, but it’s not always at the right time, because there are so many other things that she should be doing. Like anything else, she is a work in progress and is presently under Major Construction. She has recently been published in the Awakened Voices literary magazine, Silver Birch Press, and Wild Women’s Medicine Circle. Follow along for inspiration or for simple enjoyment at Mia’s Wisdom and My Poetry Express.  


Caterpillars, Hookers, and Me
by Vicki McCoy Grey

What do caterpillars and hookers have in common? Me, of course.

I worked at Howard Johnson’s on the turnpike during several summers. It had a dining room and an area with four U-shaped counters.  I had a counter.  Every day, I trotted off to work in my green-and-orange HoJo uniform, institutional white shoes, stockings, and — horrors! — a hairnet.

One day a handsome young man sat at my counter and ordered a creamy white tuna sandwich on dark rye. He gave me the “eye,” which thrilled me.  But he repeatedly kept looking at me and down to the counter.  Odd…

Finally he said, “Come over here.”

I stood in front of him and smiled, “How are you today?”

He whispered, “Look at my sandwich.”


“My sandwich!”

There, dancing on top of the dark bread, was a bright-green caterpillar.

“Let’s be discreet about this.”

The caterpillar kept dancing.  Helpless, I burst out laughing. I couldn’t stop. I carried it back to the kitchen where the rest of the teenage staff became hysterical.

By then, the poor man had had enough and walked out.


At seven most nights, “Mother and Daughter” came to dine. “Mother” was in her fifties; “Daughter,” her thirties. We hated to see them at our counter. They lingered, griped about orders, and rarely tipped. Dyed red hair done in an outdated style, sheath dresses, jewelry, and high heels, they often talked to truckers who parked their rigs on the far side of the property.

“Why do those women come here to eat?  And why not sit in the dining room?”

“You’re kidding, right?” said another kid. “Don’t you know?”

“Know what?”

“They’re hookers!”

Ah well, it filled in a big gap in my worldly education.

IMAGE: Howard Johnson’s ad from 1959.

 NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: It seems funny now to look back and realize how important that backbreaking, poorly paid job was to me. I desperately wanted to go to college and become a Spanish teacher and what tips I could garner would help me reach that goal. I put in three long summers there with other kids who were all striving to better themselves so they wouldn’t end up in just these positions.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vicki McCoy Grey, of Springdale, Pennsylvania, has a B.S.Ed. in Spanish from Clarion State College and an MFA-NFW from Chatham University. Newly retired, she is spending a lot of time writing short stories and experimenting with different styles. Writing groups help to spark her creative side. She has received several awards for her work from the Writing Success Conference.

Carolyn Martin 1962
Taking stock
(Perth Amboy, NJ, 1962)
by Carolyn Martin

A feel for finery? I mastered it at seventeen
in Stein’s Boutique unwrapping taffeta, silk shantung
and lacy overlays, racking them along the aisles
where salesgirls worked their pitch
and matrons needed hours of pampering.

Mrs. Sixteen-Plus? Curvaceous in the satin twill.
Mrs. Husband-Cheats? Blossoms in the floral print.
Mrs. Mousy-Hair? Floats in beige chiffon
to cocktails at the Rotary, dances at the Elks.

Conspiracy of words or well-placed compliments?
I wasn’t sure. When Mr. Stein, master
of the fashion scene, perused from top
to toe and grinned, Exquisite taste!
Perfect style! blushing faces beamed.

But what’s true? I asked myself — scavenging
through dressing rooms for lipstick stains,
armpit smells, seams that stretched.

I’d gather up the garments left behind —
assuring them some day they’d host a swank event —
while salesgirls rang up hard-wrought sales
and Mrs. So-and-So strutted out
the dress shop door indulged, convinced.

SOURCE: Previously published in Star 82 Review.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The stock girl gets ready to graduate from St. Mary’s High School, Perth Amboy, New Jersey, in 1963. She hasn’t written one line of poetry yet.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As a shy teenager, I worked for two years as a stock girl in a women’s dress shop — Friday nights and Saturdays at $1.00 an hour. The saleswomen were much older and well-versed in the art of fashion and flattery.  Sometimes I felt they talked women into buying dresses that weren’t quite that smart or appropriate — or, at least, that was how my untrained eye interpreted it. In any event, they were very kind and even allowed me to handle a customer or two.

Version 2

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: From English teacher to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin has journeyed from New Jersey to Oregon to discover Douglas firs, months of rain, and perfect summers. Her poems and book reviews have appeared in publications throughout North America and the UK, and her third poetry collection, Thin Places, is slated for release by Aldrich Press in Fall 2017.

Fifty Cents an Hour and Zero Tips
by Alice Morris

It doesn’t add up — this five-month-old —
his tears, his fussing and crying when at ten
I’m a pro at tending babies, but
it’s my first paid job, so now, after
five diaper checks, twenty walks,
hundreds of soft pats, four bottles offered —
an hour and fifty-five minutes in — baby
delivers not one smile, spit-up, or
burp – this job that’s to last three hours
already seems like eight years, and I have
to call my mother — just across the street.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Age ten, early 1960s — confidently taking care of my youngest brother.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: While struggling, trying to respond to the prompt, “My First Job, ” I received another prompt about writing a poem using ten lines, ten syllables per line, with a focus on numbers. “It doesn’t add up” was offered as an opening. I did not adhere strictly to the form, but I used the opener, and as I applied the number suggestion I found myself, once again, experiencing the epic failure of what was to be my first autonomous job, except this time, so many years later, largely because of the emotions exposed through numbers, I was forced to laugh — just one of poetry’s many gifts.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alice Morris comes to writing with a background in art– published in a West Virginia textbook and The New York Art Review. Her poetry appears or is forthcoming in The Broadkill ReviewDelaware Beach Life, Silver Birch Press, Rat’s Ass Review, The White Space, The Avocet, and The Weekly Avocet. Her poems are also published or forthcoming in themed collections and anthologies, most recently Rehoboth Reimagined, The Way to My Heart: An Anthology of Food-Related Romance, Ice Cream Poems: reflections on life with ice cream, and Bared: Contemporary Poetry and Art on Bras and Breasts.

Author photo by Alice Morris.

Walowitz (job)
Button Trends—Summer, 1959
by Alan Walowitz

I was 10 and ready for work:
lunch order in my fist, a ten in one pocket
mail stuffed in the other —
But never down the mail chute,
my father said as I headed to the elevator,
something might get stuck
and there goes the business — though business
was never much up on 8, at 1181 Bway,
and I used to hear him on the phone
— Doll, doncha know the check is in the mail —
with that confidential laugh that got him so far, no farther.
You got to take the mail and get it right in the box;
Aloysius, this ain’t horseshoes. Though Hubert,
the black delivery boy who had signed on
to learn this dying business,
would mumble Horseshit in its place,
though I wasn’t supposed to hear.
So I’d head out on the street,
to listen to the Jamaican guy
who hunkered near the entrance
banging away on his homemade pan;
and the old Jews — Commies, anarchists,
artists-schmartists — as they made their way
toward Parnes Dairy across the street,
always in the middle of some tzimmis
and now ready to kvetch about the size of the dollop
that came in their borscht.
And the old Irish jocks, no place to go,
Belmont closed for repairs, Jamaica shut for good,
and how the hell d’ya get to Aqueduct anyhow.
And in all that whirl to find my way back to 28th St.
seemed like plenty to do,
turned around and dizzy among the dress racks,
carrying two corned beef, one pastrami, one tongue,
a cream, ginger ale, and Celray to share,
sides of slaw, packed in cardboard, and leaking through the bag.
Except when the elevator got back to 8,
I still had the envelopes in my pocket
and had to drop them down the chute —
the checks never to arrive, the invoices not to be paid,
statements of accounts ignored, bills of lading denied,
the aroma never to be delivered, but all over the mail.

AUTHOR PHOTO CAPTION: Me, age 11, advertisement for D.C. Comics, another early job that didn’t pay much!

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Like many of us, my first job was with and for my father, who took me with him to work long before there was ever a “Take Your Kids to Work Day.”  On special days during the summer, my dad would take me with him to “The City” — Manhattan — where I would make myself fairly useless in the office where he sold  buttons to manufacturers of women’s clothes.  The location — 1181 Broadway — was the heart of the garment district, an exciting and bustling place then.  Occasionally, my dad would give me a really important job like getting the mail in the mailbox and getting lunch for everyone.  Though I was only 10, and almost always screwed something up, this was special, one of the best jobs I’ve had.

Alan Cornelia Street 3-7-17

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alan Walowitz has been published in various places on the web — and off. He’s a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, an online Community Journal of Poetry, and teaches at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, and St. John’s University in Queens.  Alan’s chapbook, Exactly Like Love, was published by Osedax Press in 2016 and is now in its second printing.  His website is

Filling in Time
by Lynn-Marie Harper

Miss Harper I don’t think you’re quite cut out for this line of work. And with that I was free.  A statement of  discontent  from the boss, the dentist whose practice on Manchester Road I didn’t work in or at for very long. A week at least, a month at most. Each time I walked up the long drive beside the field of a garden my heart sank as I walked into the claustrophobia of the surgery. Had  I been a receptionist I might have lasted the rest of that summer between leaving school and visiting the coast of Cornwall and art college — but no, I was a dental assistant in one of many sorties into new experience that I called work.

As a dental assistant I  cleaned and handled the dentist’s implements, and was present whilst the young, very old, and nervous beyond belief were administered gas that appeared to take away  consciousness and this was the factor that kickstarted the lifelong squeamishness at which near fainting in some kind of empathic commiseration took hold, took place, and took a buckling of the knees and head drained of blood to to impact me the dentist and the patient.

I wouldn’t say I celebrated upon hearing those words but I don’t think I looked back as I walked towards the heavy traffic that Friday night and  looked up at the rolling green moors overladen with rolling grey clouds. Neither did I wonder what I was cut out for as I left the dark brown cramped interior behind, the smell of which has long lingered and which reemerges whenever I have entered a dentist surgery or on other medical occasions when black rubber and that particular gas coalesce.

PHOTO: The author, around the time she worked as a dental assistant.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lynn-Marie Harper lives in and loves London, She trained in and taught dance for a living years after the art college mentioned in the piece, and has worked in many jobs, mostly with people — this one making a lasting impression and libraries being fertile creative ground. She reads to patients in hospice and out and writes poetry mainly, having had pieces published online and in anthologies.

green croft
Summer Maid
By Barbara Eknoian

At age fourteen, I land my first job
working as a maid
at The Green Croft, a family inn,
at Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey.
My pals, the waiter and waitress,
make tips, but guests
don’t think to tip the maid.
I’m content because I only work
two or three hours
and the rest of the day
I spend swimming, hiking,
and floating on rafts.
It’s a vacation away
from hot asphalt streets.
My three summers there disappear
like the wake from a speedboat.
It’s our last Labor Day at the hotel
I have to say good-bye
to my summer buddies.
I stand in the hotel hallway
sobbing, my shoulders shaking,
my tears flowing nonstop.
I know we’ll lose touch;
life is moving us on.
In my spirit, I’m resisting
like a little kid
who doesn’t want to leave
her mommy
to attend kindergarten.
I’m about to be held captive
sitting at a desk
at Mutual of New York
typing insurance claims.

IMAGE: The Green Croft, Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: It was an innocent time during the late fifties. I grew up working at The Green Croft  for three summers.  I didn’t start my job after high school graduation until I could spend my last summer at the lake. My memories of that time are more vivid in my mind than how I spent yesterday.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barbara Eknoian’s work has appeared in Pearl, Chiron Review, Cadence Collective Anthology, and Silver Birch Press’s Silver, Green, Summer, and Self-Portrait anthologies. She never experiences the “empty nest syndrome” as her family has moved back to live with her in La Mirada, California,. Her poetry book, Why I Miss New Jersey, short story collection, Millie’s Place and Other Stories, and  Monday’s Child are available at Amazon.