Richard Vargas: “when i was a UPS man”

when i was a UPS man


i was somebody in my brown
pants and shirt sitting high
in the driver’s seat steering
my monster of a truck one- 
handed while easily shifting
gears with the other 

we maneuvered through 
Anaheim traffic
a modern-day vaquero 
and his horse driving cattle
the two of us in sync 
anticipating the ebb
and flow of the herd

on those summer days
when the back of the truck
turned into an oven  
my sweat left streaks of crusty 
white salt on my work shirt
the customers always had 
a cold drink waiting for me 
knowing i couldn’t afford 
to drag ass or slow down 

the workday was just me and 
my truck making our deliveries
stop and go stop and go
each package an important one
each business eagerly awaiting 
my knock on their back door
or a receptionist with glossy lips
looking up and smiling just for me 
when i walked into her lobby 
carrying the anticipated
Next Day Air envelope

during the Christmas season 
i delivered the boxes
of chocolates and nuts
sausages and cheese
the gifts from all over
the country finding the
way to the doorsteps
of the homes on 
my delivery route
while the colored lights
strung across each house
flickered on and off
and the trees stood
in the windows
weighed down with
an array of shiny 

a flashlight helped me read
addresses in the dark
while i ran from my truck
to their front door then back 
trying to finish the shift by 8 pm


one hernia repair later
plus two bouts with pneumonia
and now laid up with a bad back
weekly computer reports informed
the bosses i wasn’t working 
hard enough fast enough
to suit them
their verbal warnings turned
into written warnings
my shop steward
pulled me aside and
told me to watch
my back

the doctor knew who was 
paying his bills and treated 
me accordingly
the day he offered me
a choice i knew the score
he could sign me off as okay
for returning to work 
no matter how my back felt
or he could classify me unfit
for the job

he stepped out so i could
mull it over and think about
the great pay and benefits
that were on the line
but i thought of the old guys 
a few years from retirement 
trying to hold on and not break down

a fishing boat and ice chest
of cold beer almost within reach
the look on their faces
at the end of the long day
as they sat down on the 
wooden bench in the locker
room and rubbed their knees
for a long time
groans slipped through
clenched teeth as they 
stood up and shuffled
out of the building

a week later i turned in
my work shirts and pants
cleaned out my locker
signed the necessary forms 
said my goodbyes

no one noticed

About the Author: Richard Vargas earned his B.A. at Cal State University, Long Beach, where he studied under Gerald Locklin. He edited/published five issues of The Tequila Review, 1978-1980, and twelve issues of The Mas Tequila Review from 2010-2015. Vargas received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Mexico, 2010. Published collections: McLife, 2005; American Jesus, 2007; Guernica, revisited, 2014; How A Civilization Begins, Mouthfeel Press, 2022, and a fifth book to be published in 2023. He currently resides in Wisconsin, near the lake where Otis Redding’s plane crashed.


Image Credit: Gordon Parks “Untitled Photo” (1943) Public domain image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Agnes Vojta: “After surgery”

After surgery 

he surfaces drowsy 
from anesthesia
sees his wife 
by his bedside
reaches out 
his hand feels 
her shoulder blade
relieved he sighs
“No wings! 
I am alive!”

About the Author: Agnes Vojta grew up in Germany and now lives in Rolla, Missouri where she teaches physics at Missouri S&T and hikes the Ozarks. She is the author of Porous Land (Spartan Press, 2019) and The Eden of Perhaps (Spartan Press, 2020), and her poems have appeared in a variety of magazines.

Image Credit: Karl Wiener “Komposition aus ‘Pflaster und Wiese’ X (1924) Public domain image courtesy of Artvee