Forty-Two Years

The year of 1976, May.

Young, naive, impressionable,

eighteen years of age,

ears glistening with dew.


She prepares,

cinching the fabric belt

of a washed-out, blue shirtdress

with vertical white buttons.


Her hair dark,

it glistens purple in the sun

as she hesitates toward the door

that leads to a career.


The resume is thin…

field work, picking strawberries,

factory work, packing cheese,

one year with an attorney.


The one sits behind a desk.

He feels old to this youth –

tinted glasses, casual,

a chain wrapped around his throat.


Number two arrives.

Beach boy,

white jeans, striped shirt,

bit of a smart ass.


An interview begins.

Questions are intertwined

with stories of their search,

a pot pipe and someone’s arrest.


Young, naive, impressionable.

Caught off guard,

not expecting this.

What will her mom say?


The interview ends

on the second floor

of an interesting place,

where college students roam.


She waits one week,

one week turns into two.

You’re too young, naive, impressionable.”

Mom is pessimistic.


A rotary phone rings.

The one was on vacation.

Sorry it took this long,

would you like the job?”


Forty-two years later,

a lengthy career.

The only thing better?

Retirement, next year.

Dear MJM Peeps,

This poem is reflective of my first interview with a Wisconsin state agency. Part of it may not make sense, so I will add that the interview was at a Probation and Parole office, on a college campus, with two Agents who decided to discuss a recent home search in between asking questions. Quite the interview! The position I accepted opened my eyes to the real world and the side of humanity that can be very dark. I stopped being naive about five minutes into my first day.

36 responses to Forty-Two Years

  1. Dan Antion says:

    This is why I like poetry. I would have spend 800-900 words trying to tell a piece of this story (in fact, I think I have). You wrap it up nicely in a couple hundred well-chosen words.

    I remember the stress of interviewing with little more than a promise to work hard and learn fast, and then not hearing…until it began. 42 years is a long time. long enough, but I don’t sense that you’ve lost much of the compassion that must have been with you in those first few days. Retirement? Doesn’t it feel good to think about it in the foreseeable future?

    I hope you have a great week, Mary!

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Thanks, Dan! That first interview with Corrections – the place, people, events – has always been a vivid memory to me and poetry seemed the perfect outlet to put it into words. It’s a very awesome feeling to know that retirement is around the corner. I hope my patience and mind hold out until then. 😉

      You have a great week as well. Mine is starting out well with a mental health day off and sunshine. 🙂

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Lots and lots of time. Lots. I was at training on Friday and the instructor made everyone introduce themselves and say how long we have been with our organization. I am somewhat proud of the accomplishment, but it also makes me feel like I should be someone’s grandma. *sigh*

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Soon, Lois, the light at the end of the tunnel will be on a bike trail…on a Tuesday morning…when everyone else is sitting at their computer. I can hardly wait!

  2. May of 1976 – I had taken a military leave of absence from IBM and was in the US AIR FORCE and got married. (What was I thinking !) I love how you arrange words ! (Retirement is great by the way!)

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Thanks for your service, Bill!
      We were probably having similar thoughts about marriage, but I took a little longer to wake up. 😉
      I am soooooo looking forward to retirement. Some people say to me “you need to have a plan” or ask “what will you do?” The answers are “I plan to do lots” and “I plan to do lots.” 😀

  3. Kathryne says:

    Congrats on your soon coming, we’ll deserved retirement! Wondering where you’ve logged those years? Inquiring minds and all that. I worked for P&P 5 yrs so can relate to odd questions. It’s a unique environment. Blessings on your future steps!

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Kathryne, I’ve been with Wisconsin Corrections for all of my 42 years, 3 years in an institution and 39 years out in the field doing office/administrative duties. It’s been an eye-opener, an education, and a unique and wild ride. Too many changes to count, too.

      • Kathryne says:

        I was an Officer w/FL DOC back in the 80’s. We depended on our clerical staff greatly. 👍🏻

  4. joey says:

    I knew bits and bobs of that, and I love the way you wound these words together to tell the story. I’d love to stay LONG at a job. Let’s see, in 42 years, I will be silver haired and gnarly-fingered, but maybe I’ll still be working at 86. You never can tell. We’ve got a swim instructor at the Y who is 82, and my jobs are not like swimming!
    Anyway, I’ll look forward to your retirement with you. Then the only thing between you and a bike ride is the weather! 🙂

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I don’t know if you should aspire to work another 42 years at one job, Joey. Maybe just until you’re 62 or 65 or whatever magical number it is. I jokingly tell people I started at age 12, before child labor laws, and that always gets a laugh. I never thought I’d be at this agency for so many years and as rewarding as some of it has been, I sometimes regret not attending college and seeking other avenues and promotions. That might be my goal next year…take a few college writing courses and see what happens.

      Wishing you much success in your working life and hoping the latest opportunity brings joy and a career future for you.

      • joey says:

        Yes, absolutely take some classes! You will love writing classes, I just know it!
        Thanks, Mary 🙂

  5. i like the way you wove the snippets of information between well-chosen gaps. It’s like a fine pen & ink drawing—that which is not defined says as much as what is outlined and detailed.

    Congratulations on your upcoming retirement. It has been four years for me and I recommend it to everyone.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Allan, thank you for your kind comments about the poem. It is truly appreciated as I wind up a spring poetry class I’ve been attending. Poetry can be so subjective…

      I accept your retirement recommendation whole-heartedly! 🙂

  6. This is brilliant, Mary! I’m with Dan above; you did an excellent job of conveying—quite fully—a story that might’ve filled pages and pages of even a ‘short’ piece. What an amazing job, by the way, and what guts it must’ve taken for you, so young, to even go to the interview, let alone accept the position. The things you must’ve learned, seen, experienced… You must have such powerful insight, such deep, deep empathy. Kudos to you. (And congratulations on retirement next year!)

    Thanks so much for visiting my guest post over at Damyanti’s yesterday, and for your lovely comment there. Truly appreciated. Hope you had a wonderful weekend!
    Guilie @ Life In Dogs

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Guilie, I am truly humbled by your comments. I did not expect “brilliant,” but I thank you for this positive and supportive feedback. I don’t remember if I felt nervous before the interview, but the two Agents quickly put an ease into the interview. Perhaps that was their intention! I’ve seen and heard many things, some of which you’d never want to see in print. My empathy for some of these people was in their upbringing (bad from the start) and life struggle.

      I did have a wonderful weekend and I hope the same for your week. That was a wonderful post, Guilie. Those two faces are so adorable! I hope they find their furrever homes. 🙂

  7. Joanne Sisco says:

    What an accomplishment! There aren’t very many people who can make a claim like that one. Congratulations! … and I hope this final year before retirement is a good one 🙂

  8. JoAnna says:

    After 30 something years as an addictions counselor in a nonprofit agency, I thought I’d miss my work. I did miss parts of it, but after a year, I’m thankful for new adventures and a slightly calmer life. You’ve served well, Mary. 42 years is definitely something to feel good about.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      The part of my work life I will miss most is the people. I’ve met some really wonderful people and made a few friends along the way. Then again, I am looking forward to the “slightly calmer life” of retirement.

  9. Sharukh Bamboat says:

    Nicely put. First, is that road picture for real? I remember I once went to Nepal and in the middle of the night, I was on this shabby wobbly state transport bus. We passed through a valley area 900 feet high and this twisted road came up. I swear to God, that was the scariest ride ever. One wrong turn by the driver and our bus would go down the valley like a blazing meteorite. The funny part is that all the passengers were asleep as if they were in a Las Vegas King Suite. Well, coming back to the retirement topic. I would like to retire in the next 4-5 years, if possible. I’m 38 now. Also, my definition of retirement is a bit different. I want to have better financial freedom so that I can say goodbye to my clients and focus on what I want to do. I’m already working from home so I’m partially retired, at least I feel that way.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      The road photo is from a stretch of Highway in Door County, Wisconsin. The road in Nepal sounds far worse and I think the only danger with the road in my photo is if you try to drive the curves after too much to drink.

      I wish you success in your retirement plans, Sharukh. Doing what you really want to do makes life far more enjoyable.

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