Three Poems

The Indexer 

This rare bird must while being intelligent, levelheaded, patient, accurate, and analytical work at top speed to meet an almost impossible deadline.
—Chicago Manual of Style,
13th ed.

The last shall be first is not
irrelevant, as she anticipates  

readers’ questions, oblique
entrances into text, references 

sought as pages blur
between thumb and index  

finger, like trees on a highway
when she worried destination 

as a child in her father's car.
Streets and cities and names 

for melancholia — located,
understood.  A papyrus  

scroll might be unrolled
for ages without chapters, 

or headings.  To be lost  
is common, but not 

inevitable. Praise
the printing press, its page  

and leaf and line numbers.
Praise the system that allows 

order: not a concordance,
but a cosmography; how 

the solitary indexer elides
impediments, travels  

between alphabetical corridors
in sublime contentment. 

Ghost Writers' Nursing Home

No one talks about their own lives.
And the stories of movie stars,
presidents and divas 
are old. It’s nice to sit,
let someone else dish
 — well, it’s worth a snicker 

over lunch among goblin gossips
out to pasture. Rarely
do they feel regret. The coulda  

been a contenda crap. Someone
shuts them up. Big name: 
steam on a mirror.  Done. 

Out back there’s birds and a feeder,
and enough stories to last a
Don’t need those either.


The Late Shift: Copy Girl

There were creeps, too,
men who rode the cramped 

elevator with me as I carried copy
from floor to smoky floor,  

or who leered from the inky presses
when I entered for the early edition.   

A copy editor with bleary eyes
always stared when I cleaned the wire, 

and the photo editor lingered outside
the darkroom, a slow smirk  

surfacing. I learned to be quick.
A wit. Though sometimes  

I asked about their daughters,
told the guard out front to watch me 

on the little TV when I left at 1 AM,
past the loading docks out back, 

though I knew he’d be distracted by talk,
by whoever walked past the glass  

front doors on Franklin. When
it was over, I toughened my walk, 

crossed the dark street with cars
along the curb, into the lit parking lot.   

I was 17, determined to cut through
every desperation in the air.   

—Marilyn Annucci,  Madison, WI