Sean Thomas Dougherty

DEAR HR PERSON FROM HEALTHSOUTH WHO CALLED


to say I did not get the job, I did not mean offense when I laughed. How rare it is to hear back
from a job application when we do not get the job. More often we hear nothing. In this century
there is no long line waiting for work outside the plant to be told by a hard-faced foreman there
are no shifts, no waiting for your script out on the dock. We walk with smoke in our skulls. We
apply on line. We hit send. You write and send in your life on a page and hope for an interview
and afterwards you hear nothing. So to get a call telling me that job went to someone else, I bet
to that young woman with the long dark hair I met in the waiting room who looked like she
could run a marathon, and well I suspected I was too old for the job when I saw the recruiter’s
eyes, though she did brighten when I said I knew how to make an excel file, and seemed
impressed at my knowledge of medications though she said I would we doing mostly PT,
physical therapy and I thought of the lifting and my knees and maybe she saw me slightly wince,
though by the end of the interview I still had hope but after two weeks I thought well that’s that,
and then you called. How many of us are out there waiting by the phone? We hear nothing. The
only music I can write is written in the dust I do not sweep. There is a broom somewhere just my
height, there is a box or person waiting for me to lift. No one even calls to say, no. No one points
to us to say you are not needed, so I thank you for your call. Dear HR person, your voice tells me
there is a file with my name, I nearly cry when you say, “It will be kept on file in case of any
future openings we think that you will fit.” Like a puzzle into a box, or a body into a ditch? We
have become the invisible masses. We are out there waiting for the bus, as you pass on your
morning commute. I want to say to you what Coleridge wrote, “Work without Hope draws nectar
in a sieve,/ And Hope without an object cannot live.” I am an object, with two hands and eyes.
But I have vanished! In statistics, we are only seen if we ask the government for help. Once that
check on Friday stops, no bureaucrat can say we are a number, a statistic that means we are
waiting in rooms, sending out applications. This is not simply despair.  What unearned wage we
wear is weighed upon our shoulders?  In the refrigerator is only milk and margarine, a pile of
banquet meals. Any little we have we buy a bottle of something cheap. We stare out at the light
that falls against a brick wall. The sirens howl all night. We turn back to the static in our brains.
And what do we call ourselves these days? So many of the jobs we sell ourselves for contract
wage? For temporary positions? Are we no longer workers? Waiting to be loaded in the back of
a pick-up where nobody bothers to write down your name. For how long we say here are our
bodies, take them. Make them bend. Give us our daily bread.

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