To My Father's Business

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Leo bends over his desk 
Gazing at a memorandum 
While Stuart stands beside him 
With a smile, saying, 
"Leo, the order for those desks 
Came in today 
From Youngstown Needle and Thread!" 
C. Loth Inc., there you are 
Like Balboa the conqueror 
Of those who want to buy office furniture 
Or bar fixtures 
In nineteen forty in Cincinnati, Ohio! 
Secretaries pound out 
Invoices on antique typewriters— 
And fingernail biters. 
I am sitting on a desk 
Looking at my daddy 
Who is proud of but feels unsure about 
Some aspects of his little laddie. 
I will go on to explore 
Deep and/or nonsensical themes 
While my father's on the dark hardwood floor 
Hit by a couple of Ohio sunbeams. 
Kenny, he says, some day you'll work in the store. 
But I felt "never more" or "never ever" 
Harvard was far away 
World War Two was distant 
Psychoanalysis was extremely expensive 
All of these saved me from you. 
C. Loth you made my father happy 
I saw his face shining 
He laughed a lot, working in you 
He said to Miss Ritter 
His secretary 
"Ritt, this is my boy, Kenny!" 
"Hello there Kenny," she said 
My heart in an uproar 
I loved you but couldn't think 
Of staying with you 
I can see the virtues now 
That could come from being in you 
A sense of balance 
Compromise and acceptance— 
Not isolated moments of brilliance 
Like a girl without a shoe, 
But someone that you 
Care for every day— 
Need for customers and the economy 
Don't go away. 
There were little pamphlets 
Distributed in you 
About success in business 
Each about eight to twelve pages long 
One whole series of them 
All ended with the words 
"P.S. He got the job" 
One a story about a boy who said, 
"I swept up the street, Sir, 
Before you got up." Or 
"There were five hundred extra  catalogues 
So I took them to people in the city who have a dog"— 
P.S. He got the job. 
I didn't get the job 
I didn't think that I could do the job 
I thought I might go crazy in the job 
Staying in you 
You whom I could love 
But not be part of 
The secretaries clicked 
Their Smith Coronas closed at five p.m. 
And took the streetcars to Kentucky then 
And I left too.

© Kenneth Koch