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American Life in Poetry

Sun., Dec. 19, 2010

At any given moment, there must be 100,000 of us trying to fit in, and finding it next to impossible. Here’s a wonderful portrayal of that difficulty, by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, who lives in Astoria, N.Y.

At the Office Holiday Party

I can now confirm that I am not just fatter

than everyone I work with, but I’m also fatter

than all their spouses. Even the heavily bearded

bear in accounting has a little otter-like boyfriend.

When my co-workers brightly introduce me

as “the funny one in the office,” their spouses

give them a look which translates to, Well, duh,

then they both wait for me to say something funny.

A gaggle of models comes shrieking into the bar

to further punctuate why I sometimes hate living

in this city. They glitter, a shiny gang of scissors.

I don’t know how to look like I’m not struggling.

Sometimes on the subway back to Queens,

I can tell who’s staying on past the Lexington stop

because I have bought their shoes before at Payless.

They are shoes that fool absolutely no one.

Everyone wore their special holiday party outfits.

It wasn’t until I arrived at the bar that I realized

my special holiday party outfit was exactly the same

as the outfits worn by the restaurant’s busboys.

While I’m standing in line for the bathroom,

another patron asks if I’m there to clean it.

Copyright 2009 by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz from her most recent book of poetry, “Everything is Everything” (Write Bloody Publishing, 2010). Reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. First printed in Rattle, Vol. 15, no. 2, Winter 2009. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


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