Small Talk at an Academic Conference on the Working Class

I've been cornered by another conference
attendee who wants to tell me about his working
class experience: how he once wrote twelve pages
deconstructing the binary oppositions

within the Greatest Hits of Bruce Springsteen.
I let indifference register on my face
as I read him like a bad poem.
A collar the color of photocopy paper.

Metaphors as obvious as dead-end streets.
His language is always in Word Perfect.
No spelling errors or fragments
or Final Notice stamps. We shake hands

and I note how clean his fingernails are.
No dirt in the ridges of his fingerprints.
Nothing that could leave a stain
on our handshake or a smudge on his resume.

:: Andrew Rihn, The Rust Belt MRI (Pudding House, 2010)

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