Archives for posts with tag: poets



Our first jobs usually didn’t pay that well, but left us with lots of stories to tell.  We’d like to hear about your fledgling foray into the workplace in our MY FIRST JOB Poetry and Prose Series!

PROMPT: Tell us about your first job in a poem (any reasonable length) or prose piece (300 words or fewer — this word limit also applies to prose poems).

WHAT: Submissions can be original or previously published poems or prose. You retain all rights to your work and give Silver Birch Press permission to publish the piece on social media. We are a nonprofit blog and offer no monetary compensation to contributors. If your piece was previously published, please tell us where/when so we can credit the original publisher.

HOW TO SUBMIT: Email one poem or prose piece to as an MSWord attachment — and in the same file include your name, contact info (including email address), one-paragraph author’s bio (written in third person), and any notes about your creative process or thoughts about your piece. Please put all this information in one MSWord document and title the file with your last name (and only your last name). Write “JOB” in the subject line of the email. If available, please send a photo of yourself around the time you  worked your first job  — and provide a caption for the photo (where, when, what). Send the photo as a separate jpg attachment.


To help everyone understand our submission requirements, we’ve prepared the following checklist.

1. Send ONE MS Word document TITLED WITH YOUR LAST NAME (e.g. Smith.doc or Jones.docx).

2. In the same MS Word document, include your contact information (name, mailing address, email address).

3. In the same MS Word document, include a one-paragraph author’s bio, written in the third person. You are encouraged to include links to your books, websites, and social media accounts — we want to help promote you!

4. In the same MS Word document, include a note about your poem/prose or creative process written in the first person (this is optional — but encouraged).

5. In the same MS Word document, include a caption for your photo (including where, when and/or date taken).

6. If available, send a photo of yourself at the age when you had the job as a SEPARATE jpg attachment (not in the MS Word document). Title the photo with your last name (e.g., Jones.jpg). Also send a current photo to accompany your bio.

7. Email to — and put  “JOB” in the subject line.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: Thursday, June 15, 2017

PHOTO: Welder at boat and submarine building yard, 1943 (Bernard Hoffman, LIFE Magazine).

Adult Child
by Martina R. Gallegos

My very first paying job was at the age of nine or ten;
I began taking care of my cousin’s first born.
He was probably too heavy for my small stature,
but I don’t recall ever complaining.
I’d take care of him at my cousin’s home at first;
eventually, I earned his parents’ trust,
and I could take the baby to my home.
I loved playing, singing, and laughing with him.
Washing soiled diapers was not as fun, though,
but it was fun going to the stream to wash and play.
Sometimes I’d use my mom’s washing board at home
and her clothesline to dry all the diapers.
Other times  I’d let the baby wade in the stream;
never knew how the parents would feel about it,
but they never asked if he got wet
because he was dry when he got home;
I am just glad we never had accidents.
I also enjoyed sitting on the fence and watching
people come back from the valley,
and the baby enjoyed playing with chicks,
the feathered kind, of course.
I remember my last big “check”;
it was a one hundred peso bill.
I was getting ready to graduate from elementary school,
so I knew what I was going to do with my salary;
I was going to pay for my graduation dress,
and that’s exactly what I did.
There was nothing fancy about it,
but I’d worked for and earned the money for it,
and that no money could buy.
Then I said goodbye and headed for El Norte.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The young man is the baby I took care of.  I took the picture around 1989 when I went back to visit my hometown of Potrero de Gallegos, Valparaiso Zacatecas, Mexico, after becoming a legal U.S. resident.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In the photo above, I’m pictured with my godfather wearing the dress I had made with the salary I earned as a babysitter. I was getting ready to graduate from elementary school in 1978. I don’t know who took the picture or where my godfather is now.


Martina Gallegos 
 came to the United States as an undocumented teenager and attended schools from eighth through graduate school. She’s a stroke/brain injury survivor, and her post-stroke works  have appeared in Altadena Review, Hometown Pasadena, Silver Birch Press, Spectrum, Somos en escrito, Spirit Fire Review, Basta!, and others. Visit her at

Getting the Picture
by d.r. sanchez

After life in rural high school,
before college in the mountains of country roads,
my summer was spent on a corner in Queens.

My daily commute a subway, a bus, a transfer,
and ten-block walk to a lot near a hospital bus stop
where I watched employees and patients.

Some were safe, others harassed, few threatened
yet I was unafraid, protected by the window locks
of the Foto Hut with conditioned air, and no phone.

Just enough room to stand, four feet wide, six deep,
drop off bins under the counter in front of me, film and flash
inventory above, stacked to the ceiling, within easy reach.

I locked up for grilled cheese with pickle and bacon,
for daily lunch at the diner across the street, and an egg cream
which has no egg, has no cream.

Business was slow, the delivery driver stopped
mid-afternoon to pick up, to drop off
what the customers dropped off, picked up.

Books and solitaire to fill the between
and I honed my ability to pry open seals on envelopes
careful that none witnessed me examining the contents.

It was 1978, no selfies, no smart phones or computers
people used cartridges and rolls to capture their exposures
and trusted their private secrets to curious teens.

PHOTO: Artist’s rendering of Fotomat from 1970s — a business similar to the Foto Hut described in the poem.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I have written and rewritten about this job in several ways over the years. I challenged myself to convey my experience as concisely as possible and decided that a poem was the best vehicle to meet that challenge. It brought back memories that made me smile, and some that made me shudder. My cousin Paul got the job for me. Memories are all we have of him now. I dedicate this poem in his memory.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: From left, my cousin Paul, me, his sisters, and my brother (Queens, New York, 1978).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Debra Sanchez has moved over 30 times and has lived in five states in two countries…so far. She leads and attends various writing groups in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area and also hosts writing retreats. Her writing has won awards at writers conferences in various genres, including children’s stories, poetry, fantasy, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Several of her plays and monologues have been produced and published. Other works have been published in literary magazines, newspapers, and anthologies. Visit her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Osco Drug
by Kelley White

was my first real job
when my summer boyfriend
came to pick me up
the manager asked me to keep
an eye on him. Shoplifting
suspect. Hanging around too
much. But I was the real criminal.
Peeking at the nude pictures
of my neighbors in the one-hour
photo developing lab. You’d be
amazed at the shots people take.

PHOTO: The author in New Hampshire (summer in the 70s).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My first job started out as a cashier at one of the first chain drug stores in our area. I was lucky enough to advance into a kind of specialty position behind the camera counter. My mother took a full-time position at the same store when I went back to school in the fall. I worked about 24 hours evenings and weekends throughout the school year from 14 on. It was my mother’s first job since my birth. We both had to hitch rides there as the family had only one car.


Pediatrician Kelley White worked in inner city Philadelphia and now works in rural
 New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in journals, including Exquisite Corpse, Rattle, and JAMA. Her most recent books are Toxic Environment (Boston Poet Press) and Two Birds in Flame (Beech River Books). She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.

Rye Middle School
by Lynne Viti

Rows of desks, windows open to grass and parking lot,
Fluorescent light bathing thirteen-year-olds in a faint, bluish glow.
When I smiled and was kind, they were little monsters.
When I became a Marine, gave out detentions,
Made their mothers them my collaborators—
Suggested they withhold televisions, sleepovers, the football—
the classroom became orderly, no circled desks,
no open classroom, only rows of kids—quiet, compliant.
Open notebooks, textbooks, no smirks, coats off,
Even the vice-principal gave me r-e-s-p-e-c-t-
now that I wasn’t sending miscreants to his office.
They’d be in their fifties by now
The women dyeing their hair,
the men paunchy and grizzled.
Better to think of them in that overheated classroom,
Trying to hide their bodies in identical army green parkas.
Take off your jackets, ladies and gentlemen, I hear myself say.
This is not a bus station.
Open your books to page 70
Let’s get started.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Five of my students, last day of school, June 1971,  Rye Middle School, Rye, New York. (Photo by Lynne Viti.)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this  after I spent an hour thumbing through an old photo album, while decluttering a closet in the basement. I was amazed that I remembered the names of these kids I taught so long ago—when Richard Nixon was in the oval office!

PHOTO (left): The author, first year of teaching, in front of our apartment building 435 Riverside Drive, Manhattan. (Photo by Richard True.)

VITI 2016

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lynne Viti teaches in the Writing Program at Wellesley College. Her chapbook, Baltimore Girls, was published in March 2017 by Finishing Line. Press Her writing has appeared in  over 60 online and print venues, most recently, Stillwater Review, Bear Review, In-Flight Magazine, Tin Lunchbox, Lost Sparrow, South Florida Poetry Journal, Little Patuxent Review, Amuse-Bouche, Paterson Review, and The Baltimore Sun. She blogs at Find her on Twitter @LynneViti. (Photo by Thomas Viti.)

vintage supermarket

Open Register
by Elisa Adams

In my first job, I was a cashier in the neighborhood supermarket. Scanners hadn’t been invented; you learned the price of everything, rang items by pounding raised number keys on the cash register, and made change using mental arithmetic. One day I forgot the cardinal rule, to lock the register when you go on break. When I got back I rang the next sale, popped the drawer open, and found — nothing.  Danny, the assistant manager, knew I hadn’t locked the drawer and simply took it out while I was gone. I’d never had such a shock. I also never forgot to lock anything ever again. (Later I locked my desk at the big publishing company where I worked for years, and I took the key home every night.)

Danny had no nerves. He caught one of the cashiers cheating by standing behind her unseen while she rang her boyfriend’s order by passing half the items down the conveyor belt without charging him.  When she hit the total button, Danny walked up and said, “Get out.” And out she went.

One of the stock boys claimed to be related to the Shah of Iran. Another was an all-American kid who probably grew up to be an insurance salesman. They taught me how to pack groceries using every inch of space in those boxy brown bags, and how to fold a carton of eggs in half to fit it into the bag without breaking any eggs. Sometimes when we were all working the registers at the same time, we had silent contests to see who could fit the most in a bag. It was fun if the winner’s customer complained about how heavy the bag was.

Then one summer night our supermarket burned down, and we were all dispersed to other stores.

IMAGE: Supermarket checker, 1970s. Prints available at

me in HS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elisa Adams is a freelance writer and editor with a long career in the textbook publishing industry. She has two grown daughters and lives outside New York City with a standoffish cat, and her only interaction with supermarkets today is a weekly shopping trip.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, at the time frame of the story.

loehmann's vintage
Loehmann’s, My Mother’s Favorite Store, Becomes My First Employer
by Phyllis Klein

I was the one who took the fallen dresses, the designer pants
and shirts hanging or lying in clumps on the benches inside

the large dressing room, took them back out to the racks so
another woman could try them. I was the one who cleaned

up the racks, rearranged the sizes where they should go.
It was a comfort to be amongst all those beautiful silks,

rayons, plaids, stripes. Trying to make some sense out of
childhood, to wear the questions I hoped clothes could answer.

PHOTO: Shoppers in 1988 look through the long racks of designer sportswear and casual dresses in Loehmann’s main room during the chain’s annual fall fashion preview (Houston Chronicle).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This prompt brought back memories of something I hadn’t thought much about in such a long time. I have a life-long love of clothes and dressing up that goes back to the times I spent in that store, long before I worked there. I can remember so clearly the large dressing room, and the camaraderie of women trying things on, brought together to find luxury bargains. I thought Loehmann’s had gone out of business but discovered it is still there, online. Not the same, but glad it’s still around.

Phyllis 011 02_16 high res

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Phyllis Klein believes in poetry. Her work has appeared in the Pharos of Alpha Omega Medical Society Journal,  Qarrtsiluni online literary magazine, Silver Birch Press, New Verse News, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, Chiron Review, The American Journal of Nursing, and  Dovetails, an International Journal of the Arts. She is very interested in the conversation between poets and readers of poetry. She sees artistic dialogue as an intimate relationship-building process that fosters healing on many levels. She lives and works in the San Francisco Bay area as a psychotherapist and poetry therapist. Learn more at

By Jonathan Yungkans

my first job
was the only time I went
into a strip club

I don’t remember
what the woman
who’d started her pole dance
looked like
she was gone that fast

I remember the bouncer

arms ready
to bounce catch repeat
like guys
whose skills I’d never had
on the basketball court at school

he asked what I wanted

just late enough
between homework and bed
for me to be nowhere else

I said I was there
to get singles for Baskin Robbins
across the street

and became a celebrity

guess everyone likes ice cream
from all the applause inside

the stripper peeked out

the bouncer walked me to the bar
to get the money

I couldn’t outrun my fame
fast enough.

IMAGE: “32 Dollar Bills” signed by Andy Warhol (1981).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My first outside job, the summer after my first year of college, was scooping ice cream at a local Baskin-Robbins, thanks to a want ad in the South Bay Daily Breeze. It lasted about a month and a half, till a better-paying job in a warehouse opened (for which I’d applied and been interviewed before the Baskin-Robbins job arose), but long enough to learn that working in an ice cream shop is great till you work a full day and it’s hot and crowded nonstop. Other than the occasional crunch, it was actually okay, even with cleaning, stocking, and people issues–not to mention free ice cream at the end of a shift. By the time the warehouse called me, though, I was ready for something different–and maybe a little quieter overall.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jonathan Yungkans is a Los-Angeles-native poet, writer, and photographer with an intense love for the sea and local history. He is enrolled in the MFA Writing program at California State University, Long Beach, in hope that time at “The Beach” (CSULB’s nickname) will actually do him some good. His works have appeared in Lime Hawk, Silver Birch Press, Twisted Vine Literary Journal, and other publications.


Silver Birch Press is pleased to announce its nomination of Requiem for David, a 110-page book of poems by Patrick T. Reardon, for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. The collection — released on February 1, 2017— has garnered high praise from some of the most esteemed authors in the United States.

“Survivors know only too well how grief is equal parts sorrow, rage, and guilt. Requiem for David is the heart’s howl, a passage through mourning, a lesson ultimately in learning how to walk alongside pain with grace. We cannot avoid the dark night of the soul, but if we don’t walk through it, we can never reach the light.” — Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street

“Detail by razor-sharp detail, perception by vivid perception, recollection by haunting recollection, Patrick T. Reardon’s Requiem for David gathers into the force of a cri de coeur.” — Stuart Dybek, author of The Coast of Chicago

“In Requiem for David, Patrick T. Reardon grapples with the suicide of his brother David and with the painful childhood they shared as the two oldest of fourteen children of emotionally distant parents. Their closeness is clearly articulated in his poem “Your Death.” “Your death/tore me/open like/the baby/was coming/out.” This collection also chronicles the tight bond of affection that the fourteen siblings shared. Reardon also confronts the meaning and limitations of his Catholic faith. I share his doubts and confirmations from my limited association with Catholicism. Requiem for David, supplies insights into the intersections between the religious and the secular. His poetry reminds me of the great poet and Catholic priest, Daniel Berrigan. I highly recommend this volume to all who seek uncommon answers to difficult questions.” — Haki R. Madhubuti, Ph.D., author of Liberation Narratives: New and Collected Poems 1966-2009 and YellowBlack: The First Twenty-One Years of a Poet’s Life, A Memoir

“Patrick T. Reardon’s Requiem for David is a tribute to a younger brother who died by his own hand, a balm to heal the hurt of loss and a return, however difficult, to beauty.” — Achy Obejas, author of Memory Mambo


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick T. Reardon is a Chicagoan, born and bred. He is the author of seven books, including Faith Stripped to Its Essence: A Discordant Pilgrimage through Shusaku Endo’s ‘Silence.  Reardon worked for 32 years as a reporter with the Chicago Tribune, specializing in urban affairs, and is now writing a book about the untold story of the impact of the elevated railroad Loop on the stability and development of Chicago. His essays have appeared frequently in American and European publications, including the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, National Catholic Reporter, Illinois Heritage, Reality, and U.S. Catholic. He was on a team of Chicago Tribune reporters who won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting for “Gateway to Gridlock,” a series of stories about the nation’s overcrowded skies. His book reviews have twice won the Peter Lisagor Award for arts criticism. He has lectured on Chicago history at the Chicago History Museum.

Find Requiem for David by Patrick T. Reardon at

Patrick T. Reardon (right) at the age of two with his brother David. Not shown, their baby sister Mary Beth, three months
by Patrick T. Reardon

My first job landed on me like a ton of children
on my four-hundred-and-twenty-eighth day. It
began with my brother. Two sisters followed.
Two more brothers. Eight more sisters. The first
shepherds, guardians, models, corrects, leads,
parents, loves. I watch in Burger King as the
oldest girl has her eyes out for each of the four
small ones. She tracks the route of each, the
message of the lips and cheeks. She knows each
inner fabric — the stories lived out there, she
hears in blips and blurts and epic runs of words
and visions that she holds in her heart. She is
the translator, the middleman, the bridge that
each side walks across to the other. She carries
a weight on her six-year-old shoulders. She knows
the weight I carry on my sixty-seven-year-old
shoulders. I carry the baby because the baby
must be carried and because I find the baby
endlessly a wonderment, flesh of my flesh, bone
of my bone, my blood. I smile when the baby
smiles. I fill up with the sight of the wide world
in the wide eyes of the baby. In the wide eyes
of each of the babies, and all of them. Mine is
a happy weight, and dolorous. I want to wrap
my wings around them all, pull them together
in my protecting embrace. But I am too small,
then and now.

PHOTO: Patrick T. Reardon (right) at the age of two with his brother David.  Not shown, their baby sister Mary Beth, three months.  They were joined later by eleven other siblings.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I have become aware of the joyful and heavy task that I carry as the oldest of 14 children.  Like most jobs, there is much about being the oldest that brings delight but then also much that brings pain.

Patrick T. Reardon..

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Chicagoan Patrick T. Reardon is the author of Requiem for David, a poetry collection published by Silver Birch Press and of seven other books, including Faith Stripped to Its Essence, a literary-religious examination of Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence.