Service Workers’ Words

Magazine Review by Katy Haas

Since March, we’ve been relying heavily on service workers, those operating the essentials while the rest of the country slows or stops. The second half of the Fall 2020 issue of Rattle features work by poets who have served long periods of time as service workers.

In this section, readers can find Marylisa DeDomenicis’s “Excuse Me” and Jackleen Holton’s “The Hunter,” both of which discuss working in a restaurant. DeDomenicis writes of the prevalent racism in the kitchen where the speaker works, and Holton focuses on the sexism and harassment the women face at the restaurant where her speaker works. In both of these, the other workers advocate for each other when the higher-ups either do nothing or contribute to the problem. The speaker in DeDomenicis’s piece sticks up for the bullied Mexican bus boy, and the waitresses in Holton’s piece work the buddy system together so they’re never alone, lessening the severity of their harassment.

Laurie Uttich’s “To My Student with the Dime-Sized Bruises on the Back of Her Arms Who’s Still on Her Cellphone” stuck out to me most starkly. In this poem, the speaker notices her student’s bruises and implores that she put down her phone, her abusive boyfriend on the other end, so she can trade it for a pen and “Take a piece of the dark and put it on a page.” Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf stand by as supporting characters, offering comfort and a room of one’s own. Uttich’s use of language as the poem addresses the student is clever and flows quickly, familiar images flashing through the lines.

While we continue to rely on service workers to keep the world running, make sure to take time to hear their voices and their stories in their own words.

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