There are worse ways to enter the workforce
than by washing dishes in a bakery.
After cleaning a hundred angel food cake pans in a day,
doing the dishes at home will never again
feel like a chore. Piece of cake!
Once or twice an hour the counter girls
would step from the shop into the back room
to have a cigarette and bare their breasts at us
by the dim red light of the ovens,
as if unveiling two more fresh loaves.
This was back when employee morale
used to mean something.
Certainly it caused me to scrub more furiously.
Cyd was in love with me but I was in love
with Jennie, a triangle no geometry could ever resolve.
Those of us in the back would also sometimes
pause to peer through the blinds at the parade of humanity
in the shop, including local celebrities like the mayor
and Ringmaster Ned from Bozo’s Circus
who needed his prune kolaches every Friday.
Mr. Belushi came by several times a week
but no one knew who his sons were yet,
so to us he was just another crazy Albanian.
The real fun began every evening after the shop closed
and the Pennsylvania Dutch couple who owned the place
climbed upstairs to their second-floor apartment.
The rest of us would share a joint
lit in the glow of the ovens and have food fights
with handfuls of whipped cream
and lard scooped out of giant tubs.
Afterward we would carefully put everything
back in its place, because waste is a sin.
I was not able to eat baked goods for the next decade,
and to this day the smell of warm bread
arouses me in a way I can’t begin to explain.
Kurt Luchs (kurtluchs.com) has poems published or forthcoming in Plume Poetry Journal, The Bitter Oleander and London Grip. He won the 2022 Pushcart Prize and the 2019 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest, and has written humor for The New Yorker, The Onion and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. His books include a humor collection, It’s Funny Until Someone Loses an Eye (Then It’s Really Funny), and a poetry chapbook, One of These Things Is Not Like the Other. His first full-length poetry collection, Falling in the Direction of Up, was issued in 2021 by Sagging Meniscus Press. He lives in Portage, Michigan.