If you accept the glass of water, that
shimmers with the echo of a palm
placed down upon the table
on your right-hand side,
drawn from the rusting tap
in the kitchen down the hall
which smells faintly of dust
and metal and which contains
a fridge with at least
three out-of-milk cartons
and a passive-aggressive note
about tidying up after yourself
written by a man who also doesn’t
tidy up after himself and who calls
everyone under 30 ‘lad’ and ‘dear’
and who baulks at the cost of living
and despairs for the youth of today
then you’ve already admitted defeat.
You’ve already admitted that you came unprepared.
You’ve already admitted that you need them
more than they need you.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2019. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2019 was Roseanne Watt.
Remember when job interviews took place in the physical world? I’m sure that many of us would actually rather not, especially if this poem strikes in any way close to home. I love the absurdist humour of many of Ross McCleary’s poems, but this one felt excruciatingly familiar — indeed, a friend recently told me of an interview-skills seminar she attended which gave the bizarre and very specific advice of ‘never, EVER’ accepting the offer of refreshment from an interview panel. Here we see that advice playing out in real-time, through closely-observed, sensory detail, with the poem slowly taking on the shape of that ‘echo of a palm’ on the glass.
As a result of working as a temp, and having done so for almost 10 years, I’ve had a lot of interviews. And I’m really bad at them. Truly terrible. This is despite the fact that in the areas I am employed there is a frequently used template for answering the ‘competency-based’ questions they ask. You’d think it would get easier over time, but apparently for me it does not. So, instead of brushing up on my skills, or practicing interview techniques, I decided to come up with ulterior explanations for my failure to get a job. And that’s how I came to believe that accepting the water at the start of a job interview was a sign of weakness. The first time I interviewed after writing this, I’m pretty sure I got the job, too.