A Change of Life

Yeah, it’s mostly truckers, I guess, though

I don’t always know – how could I? – but don’t

Buy that bullshit that they’re all the same.

Sure, some are “slam-bam, thanks ma’am,” but not

All, and maybe even those guys are driving

Tight to the hour, their bosses holding damn

Stop-watches on them.  They may look raw and mean

On the road, but they’re slaves like the rest of us.


Anyway, this sure beats working the check-out.

There, your feet about ready to drop off by

The end of the day, your head full of numbers,

Bargains, coupons, all the dopey housewives.

With a bum salary, no benefits, forget about

A union.  I decided the market’s for idiots.


Took this up a couple of years ago.  We live

Just off the interstate in a nice house,

And one day I thought, “why not go into

Business for myself instead of busting ass

For the rich ones?” So I drove down to

The terminal, let it be known I was free

Form 10 to 5, Mondays through Fridays.

Sounds almost official doesn’t it? No time

Before a guy or two showed up, a little shy

At first, but I made them easy.  Soon after

Too many came, bumping into each other, and I

Had to figure a way of making things clear,

So I bought this American flag in a yard sale,

And when I put it in the window it meant

That I was “free,” get it?  I took it down

When I had a customer and they caught on real

Fast, sped on to Ontario or Ohio, somewhere.


All those dumb years I didn’t understand

That I was sitting on a fortune.  That’s changed,

Of course, I’m not really rich, but I can buy

Pretty much whatever I want and share some

Of my money around, and I think I truly am

Free.  At least, I’m my own boss these days.


From Irreplaceable You and Other Poems

By Karl Patten




I seldom write in the voice of a woman, but sometimes it’s tempting and necessary, as in “A Change of Life.”  I well know the basic elements here.  Each week we shopped at a supermarket and one of the check-out people was an attractive woman in her thirties, and by the highway we used was a house which frequently had a truck parked outside.  I put these two simple facts together to create the poem.  No doubt I had back in my mind those Godard films of the sixties in which Parisian housewives became prostitutes.


Once I heard the woman’s voice in my head this was an easy poem to write, for she could merely tell her story, which allowed me to speak for the oppressed working class, both the check-out woman and the truckers.  The detail that surprised me here was the flag bought at a yard sale; I had not anticipated this when I began the poem, and it delighted me (this was only a few years after Bush’s hysterical patriotism).


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