Office Suite: Poems for the Modern Workplace
To be completely honest, I don’t remember any particular event that drove me to write these. All except Part III were written before I started my current job. They certainly aren’t intended as a record of specific events involving specific people. If straight poetry seems out of place in a collection of musical parodies–well, perhaps it is. If you’re desperate for a musical dimension, I can at least suggest that the 8-6-8-6 lyrical meter of Part II lends itself well to such diverse selections as “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and “I Want to Teach the World to Sing,” while Part IV, for some unknown reason, fits the meter of “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” The original poems for each part are listed at the bottom of the page.
And, no, I don’t drink seven cups of coffee in a day.
Part I: The Cubicle Less Traveled By
Two cubicles in my new office stood,
And sorry I could not claim them both,
I pondered longer than I should
Which would do the greater good
To stimulate careerish growth.
The first was colder than I could bear,
Beneath an overzealous vent;
The other was fine, with warmer air,
But to the network printer there,
A steady stream of people went.
And long I dithered there in vain,
Weighing the less distracting glitch.
Would cold or traffic render me insane?
And knowing how moving’s such a pain
I doubted I should ever want to switch.
I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Someday ages and ages hence:
Two cubicles vacant stood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Part II: Emily Dickinson’s Lunch Hour
Because I could not stop for lunch,
And leave at half-past three,
I stayed inside my cubicle,
And worked on, grumpily.
I soon recalled I hadn’t brought–
Or purchased on the way–
A sandwich, drink, and bag of chips,
For this contingency.
My window showed where children played
A game out in the sun–
I watched–then turned to face
The work still to be done.
Or, rather, tried to face the work–
Distractions do abound–
And hunger just accelerates
The mental runaround.
My fellow workers paused outside
My cube and talked of food,
And ever since my abdomen
Has given rumblings rude.
‘Tis hours since lunch, and yet there seems
No ending to the day.
How long until my work’s complete?
Right now, eternity–
Part III: The Hitherto Unexpected Coffee Habit of John Masefield
I must go back to the coffee room, but please don’t ask my why:
All I need is an antidote for my fading caffeine high.
A cup or two of beanish brew will help my brain revive,
Or at least persuade my coworkers that I really am alive.
I must go back to the coffee room, for the call of the inky tide
Becomes a lot more pertinent as attention starts to slide.
And all I ask is a sturdy mug, and a spoon to stir it quickly,
And enough cream and sugar, too, to make it rather thickly.
I must go back to the coffee room, to my colleagues’ great dismay:
Addicted? No! I’m only on my seventh cup today.
And all I ask is a fresh batch, just brewed and piping hot–
Forget the mug, I’ll do all right just drinking from the pot!
Part IV: Avoiding One’s Cubicle on a Busy Morning
Whose cube this is, I think I know–
Its owner’s in a meeting, though.
She will not see me stopping here
To watch her philodendron grow.
It’s odd my feet should try to steer
This way when there is no one here.
It’s just to keep the office flake
From blithely talking off my ear.
“Hello,” I said–a big mistake,
Which led to an extended break,
In which I barely gave a peep,
Nor he a pause, a breath to take.
The chance of an encounter’s steep,
But I have deadlines still to keep:
Back to my cube, I’ll have to creep…
Back to my cube, I’ll have to creep.
Part V: Emily Gets the Last Word
The bustle in a cube–when an employee quits–
Would give the former occupant a half a dozen fits.
The clearing off of shelves, and filching of supplies
That they won’t need to use again is Practical, not Nice.
Taking a Bow:
Part I: “The Road Less Traveled,” by Robert Frost
Part II: “Because I could not stop for Death,” by Emily Dickinson
Part III: “Sea-Fever,” by John Masefield
Part IV: “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening,” by Robert Frost
Part V: “The bustle in the house,” by Emily Dickinson
Copyright 2006-8; intro copyright 2010.