The Office (NaPoWriMo 2016)

Today’s NaPoWriMo challenge is:

[T]o write a poem in which you closely describe an object or place, and then end with a much more abstract line that doesn’t seemingly have anything to do with that object or place, but which, of course, really does.

I’m not sure what I wrote for today is quite what they have in mind but it’s where the prompt took me.

I also want to make it clear: This poem does not describe my current workplace. It describes several previous places where I’ve worked.

The Office

Plastic clacking keystrokes of
Cheap mass-purchased computer keyboards,
The arrhythmic staccato of
Productivity in the modern world.
Synthetic electronic dings of email inboxes,
The forced cheerful chirping of phones ringing
(and that one person who has their
Ringtone set to sound like drums).
The talking talking talking,
Typing typing typing,
Of business being done.
The hissing hollow whoosh
Of recycled air.

This is a music which grates on the ear,
Antithesis of the treacle Muzak
Inflicted upon those who wait
On the dreaded Hold Line:
Those who wish to speak with us,
To whom we must speak,
Each one a flashing red light
Catching the corner of the eye
Like a fish hook cast badly.

Institutional white walls, dun fabric
Cubicle half-height dividers, offering only
A mockery of privacy. Tokens of personalization:
Lego sets in one, family photos in another,
Stress balls and humorous coffee mugs,
Rubber band balls and paperclip chains,
HR-approved generic motivational posters
Which motivate not at all.

My chair rolls unevenly over a
Cracked and brittle plastic mat,
Oxidized to an unappealing
Shade of off-yellow.
Lumbar support for some creature
Not remotely human. Armrests
Adjustable only for arms much longer,
Or much shorter, than mine.
The sinus-clogging choking scent
Of commercial floor cleaner.
Fluorescent lights which offend
Both the eye and the ear,
Their near-subliminal buzzing
Giving voice to the sickly greenish tinge.

There’s no happy medium in any of this.

Stained linoleum desk, utilitarian metal
Overhead cabinets whose keys went
Missing sometime in the 1980s.
Enciphered post-it notes on every surface
(The hieroglyphics of professional culture).
VoIP phone with its indecipherable buttons
(No one here can even tell me
How to transfer a call successfully).
I hide my stapler in my desk drawer
(No one knows it’s the only one
Around here that works).

To our children we entreat,
“Let us make a better world for you,
So you might one day
Make a better world than this.”

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