I don't introduce myself as a poet if I am at a gathering - it's an embarrassing category, most people don't read poetry, most literary people don't read poetry - but if I'm introduced as such I can't deny it. On the part of total strangers half or a third my age, there's a great concern for my livelihood, "you know you can't make a living as a poet", or "do you write poetry all the time?" I say no, I go to parties occasionally, I don't write poetry all the time. Anyway, in answer to that question about my living, I wrote 'Self Employed'

Self Employed

For John Smith

Piling up the years
I awake in one place
And find the same face
Or counting the time
Since my parents died –
Certain less is left
Than was spent –
I am employed
Every morning
Whose ore I coin
Without knowing
How to join
Lid to coffer
Pillar to groin –
Each day hinges
On the same offer

From The Niche Narrows: New and Selected Poems (Talisman House Publishers, 2000), copyright © Samuel Menashe 2000, used by permission of The Library of America for the Estate of the author.

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