The Business Life
by David Ignatow
When someone hangs up, having said
to you, “Don’t come around again,”
and you have never heard the phone
bang down with such violence
nor the voice vibrate with such venom,
pick up your receiver gently and dial
again, get the same reply; and dial
again, until he threatens. You will
then get used to it, and be sick only
instead of shocked. You will live
then instead of die, have a pattern
to go by, familiar to your ear,
your senses and your dignity.
This one is from my Twitter feed, so I’m not going to comment too much, except to explain the very sorry state of the paper this poem is printed on, the tears and crumples. I’ve carried “The Business Life” around in my purse for the better part of a year. Bad things happen to papers in my purse. And I can’t bear to throw out a poem, no matter how worn.
I left the poem in a lonely aisle of Office Depot, but it really belongs in a sales training program. Or a life training program, if I’m going to be gloomy about it.
A brief bio: David Ignatow (1914-1997) was the child of Russian immigrants. (Of course! That Russian fatalism is all over this poem.) He was born in Brooklyn, and after graduating from high school, worked as a bookbinder and newspaper reporter. Work being the subject of this poem and of many of his poems, it’s interesting to note how many different places Ignatow worked in his life to support his family: at a vegetable market, hospital, telegram office, paper company (hello, Michael Scott), and several universities.
I’ve liked this guy for a long time, and reading about his life, I like him even more. Think I’ll have to track down more poems of his to poem-elf.