Self-Inquiry Before the Job Interview, a poem by Gary Soto

Poet Gary Soto‘s work reflects his experience growing up in the San Joaquin Valley of Central California. “I’m one who provides portraits of people in the rush of life.” In his poem, ‘Self-Inquiry Before the Job Interview’, originally published in the July, 2001 issue of Poetry magazine and later included in the collection, ‘One Kind of Faith’, he shares his perspective of job search.

The Friday poem is for all of you getting up this morning, heading out and hoping to find work.

Self-Inquiry Before the Job Interview

Did you sneeze?
Yes, I rid myself of the imposter inside me.

Did you iron your shirt?
Yes, I used the steam of mother’s hate.

Did you wash your hands?
Yes, I learned my hygiene from a raccoon.

I prayed on my knees, and my knees answered with pain.
I gargled. I polished my shoes until I saw who I was.
I inflated my résumé by employing my middle name.

I walked to my interview, early,
The sun like a ring on an electric stove.
I patted my hair when I entered the wind of a revolving door.
The guard said, For a guy like you, it’s the 19th floor.

The economy was up. Flags whipped in every city plaza
In America. This I saw for myself as I rode the elevator,
Empty because everyone had a job but me.

Did you clean your ears?
Yes, I heard my fate in the drinking fountain’s idiotic drivel.

Did you slice a banana into your daily mush?
I added a pinch of salt, two raisins to sweeten my breath.

Did you remember your pen?
I remembered my fingers when the elevator opened.

I shook hands that dripped like a dirty sea.
I found a chair and desk. My name tag said my name.
Through the glass ceiling, I saw the heavy rumps of CEOs.
Outside my window, the sun was a burning stove,
All of us pushing papers
To keep it going.

Gary Soto   2001

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