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Jan Hanson: California Poets Part 7, Two Poems

Jan Hanson

July 1st, 2024

California Poets: Part VII

Jan Hanson

Two Poems

How Does it Feel to Fire Sixty-Four People at Christmas Time?


Ask me, I know. Their mistake was wanting a job in 1987, wanting their families to have enough to eat, dreaming of giving their 15-year-old daughters a proper quinceañera, their sons the uniforms they needed to play soccer for school. New laws, new forms needed. Proof of authorization to work in the United States. All the identifying documents they showed when they were hired were accepted. No questions. A new hotel opening, an entire staff had to be hired. I wasn’t there. My first HR director job, I came in 1988.


                                                                                        Immigration comes in 1990. Three days to give them all of our employment records. Four hundred employees in a five hundred-room hotel, sixty-four do not have authorization. Their numbers don’t match. Or their names belong to someone else. I order final checks, set up a schedule with supervisors, reserve a small conference room. Wait. Employees putting up Christmas decorations in the hotel lobby—receiving crates of spices, cooking wine, flour, onions, at the loading dock—stacking white sheets and pillow cases in the basement linen closet. Paged one by one. The door opens, a short gray-haired woman, blue uniform dress, white apron, Elena, Employee of the Year last year, eyes wide and curious, doesn’t have documentation. I’m sorry but we can’t continue to employ you.


Tears are peculiar phenomena. Sometimes it’s hard to get them started.

Sometimes it’s hard to make them stop.

Judge Thacker Pronounced the Words


Declared we were divorced. Funny enough, you and I shared the same lawyer, he lived three houses away from our house, the house you left the year before. After two kids, after marriage counseling, after I took our baby daughter back to California while you worked out the finances, and I came back and found canned peas in the cabinet, and you hated canned peas and I never bought canned peas, meaning someone else was in our house and cooking you dinner. After we moved to Florida for your job, and had a house built on land with an oak tree that was perfect for a chair swing to hang from the strongest lowest branch.                                                                                                                                                                      After we bought the house in California when we had been married a year, and it had a dichondra lawn that you mowed and a garage that you cleaned every Saturday while I dusted the bookcase made of pine boards painted black and stacked between cinder blocks painted green that you brought with you from the apartment you had when you were single. After we rode with the other Disneyland workers on the bus to Mammoth and you sat in the seat behind me and we sang It was a Very Good Year. And you told me you would teach me to ski.

Author Bio:

Jan Hanson is a human resources director who lives in Santa Ana, California. Her work life is often reflected in her poetry, drawing from the impacts of the work settings she has been a part of, including the free-wheeling hospitality industry and most recently the administration of a religious organization. Her writing also reflects her personal history, and she is inspired by a profoundly creative network of writers. Her work has appeared in Quartet, The Healing Muse and Southwest American Literature. Her first chapbook, I’ll Never Play the Hammered Dulcimer, was released in 2019 by Finishing Line Press.


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