Original poem reprinted online here: "From On Being Fired Again" by Erin Belieu
Originally read: May 7, 2013
More information about the Poet: Erin Belieu
The lackadaisical, colloquial tone really does shine in the first half of the poem. The title itself has a semblance of exasperated humor where I, mentally, put my emphasis on "again" which foreshadows the speaker's intent to discuss her multiple firings.
The sarcasm is apparent with the first two lines, "I've known the pleasures of being / fired at least eleven times--" Am I expecting her to list off all eleven? Yes, and no. If the speaker does list off all eleven, then there's a sense of focus, but if the speaker doesn't, then the ones that come out the most shocking come out and adds to the sense of exasperation.
And the big ones are "Larry who found my snood / unsuitable." The sound here is pretty funny, "another time by Jack / whom I was sleeping with." If ind this one working for the humor because the tone continues throughout the piece. "Poor attitude, / tardiness, a contagious lack / of team spirit;" The list of managerial reasons brings up the "reasons" she was fired, but not really the understanding. The tone allows this type of list to continue and be funny without much introspection.
Even when the speaker goes specific in the third stanza:
squirting perfume onto little cards,
while stocking salad bars, when stripping
covers from romance novels, their herorines
slaving on the chain gang of obsessive love--
this is still a list, a list that continues the humor. I do have to note that the internal rhyme of "cards" and "bars" adds to the humor; meanwhile, the line break of "stripping" made me think of her actually stripping and so the next lines have a slight edge to them because of the contrast of "stripping" and "romance." I think that is the indicator for a slight change.
But the change is so drastic and so insightful, "and always the same hard candy / of shame dissolving in my throat." Past me wrote, "Too on the nose -- like the reasons of getting fired." I can see the contrast between being direct but not understanding why versus being direct and understanding why. The abruptness, to me, seems really off and I don't know if I should take it as the ultimate form of exasperation or just a joke. Well the "hard candy / of shame" is a weird image contextually as though to "stand apart."
And this is what confuses me even further, the return to the tone in the last stanza, "handing in my apron, returning the cash- / register key." These are direct actions, but the poem goes philosophical, "the perversity of freedom."
It feels forced, as though the speaker has to say something that is grand in order for her experience to mean something. And, yes, I understand that this may be the point, but the way in getting there is clunky to me (just like the speaker, I know).