Sharon Waller Knutson
Bio Note: A retired journalist, I enjoy writing narrative poetry and sharing poetry and writing teasers. As a result, I have formed a mutual admiration society with many poets, which inspires me to write a poem a day. This led to my first full length poetry collection, What the Clairvoyant Doesn’t Say, a memoir, which will be published by Kelsay Books in October. My poems appear this month in Muddy River Poetry Review and Gleam: Journal of the Cadralor.
Keeping Secrets in the Sixties
The Society Editor doesn’t know how to write headlines or design the society page so that will be your job, the white-haired editor tells me, along with writing news and features. How did she get the job? I ask. She helped her mother, the former Society Editor and when she died she still kept coming in. Let that be a secret between you and me. No problem, I say as I watch her sitting at her desk, gray hair tucked under pink pillbox hat chatting with a pony tailed blonde, for my plan is to teach her how. But she has other plans. Reaching for her purse, she says: Let’s go to lunch. My treat. I point out it is only ten am. Well then, let’s go to brunch. . In our hose, heels and dresses, we walk through the brightly lit lobby of the Hotel Finlin, where JFK and Nixon once stayed, to the restaurant lounge. She gulps one Scotch on the rocks after another. Our secret, she says. Before they bring our sirloin steaks, she falls face down in her salad. With vinegar dripping from her hat, she wobbles as the Maître ‘d and I prop her up and pour her in a cab. I hop in beside her and the taxi driver and I help her to bed. Our secret, I promise. Where’s the Society Editor? the women ask as papers pile on her desk like the snow drifting outside. I find her under her desk, passed out, an empty flask at her feet and bring her cups of black coffee until she is sober. It’s our secret, I promise. I keep a secret of my own. After two years of babysitting the soused society editor and inhaling scotch fumes, I am leaving on vacation and not returning. I call in my resignation from a payphone at a Texaco along the Interstate. You can’t quit, the editor says. I just did, I say and hang up the phone and all the secrets evaporate in the fog.
sits at the typewriter, spine stick straight writing news stories that I assign her. When we decide to go to dinner and dancing, she calls a taxi in 30 below zero temperatures and charges our ride to the company that writes our checks, boldly penning her signature with swirls and slants that stand for success and a long life. Even though I fear a pink slip, I am powerless to stop this intern. She graduates summa cum laude, lands the job of society editor and calls me long distance to tell me she is a wife and mother. I am powerless to stop her more than a decade later when as I take notes in a city council meeting thousands of miles away, she writes a goodbye note with the same swirls and slants before slitting her wrists.
©2021 Sharon Waller Knutson
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