Monday, March 19, 2007

The Occupational Hazards of Proofreading

I’ve been at it so long that if you gave me
a blank sheet of paper, I might stare for an hour
without finding a single word to write.
Maybe I’d finally mark up the paper’s speckles,
the grain itself, for deletion.

I can’t even recall the morning headlines
any more, but I might chuckle all day
about a typo I found in the ‘City Styles’ section,
on page D-8.

So after years of watching me do what I do
to menus, to wedding invitations,
birthday cards from my nephew, even I don’t blame her
for the note she left on the kitchen table –
‘…our love is the strangest farce I have ever known…’
Even she’d have been surprised to see me change
the As to Os, and then pretend
her sweaters still hung in all the closets,
tubes of her lipstick were spilled on the dresser’s top.

And still, the epiphany didn’t come until an overtime shift,
the rumble of the presses just barely buzzing my chair.
when I finally saw that I had seared my own sight
leveling the indents on lease agreements
that would never leave the Misc. drawer
in a law firm’s filed cabinet, in Storage Area C.

That was the night I finally drafted
my suicide note, the first time in months
my pen filled the page with a torrent
of my own words. But when I read it through
I found some bad paragraph break
and so many run on sentences,
that all I could do was mark it up
and put it in the basket for corrections.

--Mark Aiello