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Unterberg Poetry Center

Andrea Fry

Until now, the drone of the air conditioner
had been living with him, unnoticed,
a backdrop shared with his wife's cough,
assimilated with the night's siren into dreams.
But today something's changed.
The white noise lullaby
brings on a great sleepiness,
a yawn that can't be satiated,
an inevitable crash that comes
after twenty-two years of selling software.

It all began when hockey, beer and boxer shorts
were painfully over, and it wasn't clear
what was to become of him.
Then They told him (and so he decided),
to become an adult meant charging himself
like a battery each morning.
To convince MasterCard and Bayer of anything
was to convince himself that something grand
was created behind the sheer momentum
of a sharp suit and nice teeth,
that something waited for him if he'd believe
in the monotony of purpose,
the purpose of monotony.

But just what was it he was selling?
He asks himself this today, and
for the first time, it eludes him:
Integration, frameworks, distributed environments,
mission-critical, end-to-end, self-healing,
fault-tolerant, break/fix and best-of-breed.
Dazed, he watches the Master Cooling Unit
expel each hyphenated feature/benefit,
draping them across the sill
like limp Dali emblems,
followed by all the
unique selling points he'd
ever uttered, every proof-of-concept
and value proposition.

Leaving his arsenal of jargon wasted,
the heat wave marshals press onward,
deleting his memory of breakfast meetings
and calls prompted by dumb beepers.

The heat wave purges his very memory of snow,
an utter meltdown of anything familiar.
His black Mercedes reduces
to a pool of tar, the shafts of his golf clubs splayed
like prehistoric birds sinking face-first
into warm, black death,
while his business cards whirl in a blinding gyre
into the viscous soup.

Nothing left.
A cell phone rings faintly with automated answer off.
Palm Pilot sits obediently in its cradle,
trying desperately to sync.

That night he dreams a single dream as if it were his first:
He is needed by a snow owl to guide it across the Hudson.
This is as reasonable as anything, he thinks,
and, at that, spreads his arms,
takes off.

Andrea Fry has resided in New York City for most of her life. She has been writing poetry and short stories for over 30 years while making a living in various capacities including nursing, software marketing communications and technical writing. She has participated in numerous poetry workshops and readings in New York City and Boston. Her work has appeared in Sequoia Stanford Literary Magazine and Graham House Review. She holds an MS and BS in Nursing (Columbia University) and a BA in English and French (Union College). She currently lives in New York City with her husband and daughter and works as an oncology nurse practitioner at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center.

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Please note that all 92Y regularly scheduled in-person programs are suspended.