Friday Poem – ‘The meaning of employable’ by Bryony Littlefair

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘The meaning of employable’ by Bryony Littlefair from her forthcoming debut collection Escape Room which will be published on National Poetry Day.

This cover shows a collage of a woman in 50s dress standing beside an easel showing a close up picture of a man's torso blocking out a burning building. There is a eerie photo of white lightning against dark clouds behind her. The text reads: Escape Room, Bryony Littlefair

Escape Room is the long-awaited debut collection by Bryony Littlefair. This is a collection exploring the possibilities of freedom, goodness, meaning and connection under late capitalism. Can we escape the imperatives of money, gender and human fallibility to freely construct our own identities – should we even try This complexity is balanced with a resolute joy, humour and irony. If you’ve ever grappled with ‘a desire you could not understand / like wanting to touch dark, wet paint’, had an identity crisis at a corporate away day, or just not known what to do with your Sunday morning, the Escape Room is open for you.

The meaning of employable
always changes, used to mean you could whittle or solder
and almost definitely had a dick. Now your genitals can be any shape,
in this part of the world anyhow. And whittling and soldering
don’t matter so much. And the meaning of employable
is something else, a bit to do with your handshake, how firm, how dry,
a bit to do with how well you balance sincerity and irony.
But not in a way anyone can define.
I want to do a backflip!
I am weak and clumsy, but I could learn. A good backflip is a good backflip.
We know of what we speak. It must be light and springy, legs tight together.
A pleasing arch of the spine. I’ll backflip into an interview, quick and light
and maybe they’ll be shuffling their papers when I do it – there’s four of them –
so no one would be sure they saw, and wouldn’t say anything about it to the others. All would be feeling funny.
Maybe I had too many coffees today. So the backflip would not be acknowledged, would not be turned into something else, like
‘oh, I suppose it shows humour?’ drawls one. ‘Demonstrates initiative!’
the mousy one pipes up.
No. It will just be a backflip, a perfect, secret backflip,
and I’ll be delightful in the interview, but I won’t get the job. ‘Great on paper.
But something wasn’t quite right,’ one will say, and they’ll murmur in agreement.
Because I created in everyone a private unease, which is not
the meaning of employable, but could well be the meaning of life.

Escape Room is available to pre-order on the Seren website: £9.99

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