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Our children, now lanky teenagers and just past
The part where it’s all about them, are hilariously
Interested about such odd parental phrases as the
Cat’s pajamas
and punching a clock and Captain
and bomb shelter. Every other day we
Have to explain, to general entertainment, things
Like this, and I have found that thrashing toward
Definition leaves me pondering them for a while.
I did punch a clock, for my first professional job;
I had not thought of that in thirty years. This was
In Chicago, and at four minutes to five the lobby
Of the building would fill with people from three
Floors, waiting to punch out. It was a small lobby
And no one said anything, and there wasn’t a line.
It was sort of a sweet time, actually. People knew
Who should go first: the charwomen and janitors.
The sound the time-clock made when it crunched
Your card did sound exactly like a metallic punch.
Not even the chief of the company would push by
The charwomen and janitors. Some people would
Read the Sun-Times; never the Tribune, I noticed.
It was sort of a peaceful time, actually. You could
Hear the elevated train go by and know it was just
About five o’clock. We think we forget things but
We don’t, you know. As people punched out they
Flowed through the doors like kids leaving school.
I suppose that clock was removed many years ago,
But it wasn’t, you see. There it is on the wall. And
Here we are, set on the steps as if for a photograph,
And no one is speaking, and you can hear the train
Coming, and faintly there is a rustle of newspapers.

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