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Job Interview

April 7, 2009

(First printed in Room of One’s Own, August, 1988 and Riding Home, Talon Books, 1995)

Do I have any questions?
Yes, I do. Can I sing?

I won’t often take a lunch break;
I know that’s what’s expected;
I know I’m not allowed to talk
or leave my working station.
I know there’ll be no coffee breaks;
I know the pay is dismal.
But can I sing? Can I sing?
While I’m working, can I sing?

There’s a law forbidding singing
in the Sultanate of Oman
but this is a democracy
and I have the right to vote.
Can I sing?

The price of my labour to you is cheap;
to me, it’s dear.
But surely in hard times like these
I’m willing to be grateful
that I’m allowed to work for you
to age and sicken in your service,
if while I’m working I can sing.
Can I sing? Can I sing?

In the windowless and airless rooms
that office workers work in,
I’ll sing of space and air and sand
and snow falling on the ocean.
I’ll dream of love and picket lines
and sing. I’ll remember one night
we camped by Anderson Lake
when the moon was full.
I’ll conjure up hot-blooded
sexual fantasies and/or memories.
I’ll sing of jacaranda trees
of Cairns in northern Queensland.
I’ll hum while remembering
the gleaming gold cupolas
of the Kievpecharsk Monastery
overlooking the Dnieper River.
I’ll chant quietly all the babies I ever held;
the children I spent time with.
I might remember in slow motion detail
walking to the park with Angela one summer day.
I might sing of cherry blossoms
drifting down like pink snow.

Other times, I might sing about
rain pounding on the windows
while my beloved snores beside me.
I’ll remember walking through pine forests
in search of matsutake and chanterelle
with leaves and needles crunching underfoot
and autumn wind ruffling my hair.
I’ll ponder the awful faith of planting seeds
and expecting them to grow up vegetables.

I’ll dream of full moon on Anderson Lake
and sing. I’ll dream of love
and picket lines, and sing.
Can I sing? Can I sing?

July, 1987

Copyright 2009, Helen Potrebenko. For permissions please visit