In Dad’s office the air conditioning
only worked when the winds blew cold
and the dust he’d raise, cutting slabs of it
thick as a Buick or thin as a slice of bologna,
would choke the laborers. Heating wasn’t much
of a problem, except in the coldest of winters.
Those 385 horses galloping in front of him
threw back a blast furnace’s face-searing worth
from March to November. He didn’t work
so much in the other months, but that was
the business, piece work that built a city
and connected it to others he helped build,
as well as tear down.
We didn’t have Take Your Child to Work Day
in the 1960s, but the old man brought me
along on lonely Saturdays and let me sit
with him at his workstation, where you
felt the earth shake and move at the touch
of your filthy hands and feet and you’d wonder
how something so big could ever tip over
(which it had, many times)
or blow up in your face
(like it did, a few).
In high school, the other guys’ old men
might tell ’em how a deal blew up or
a client’s case ended up sideways.
But when that happened, their dads didn’t
end up in the hospital or laid up for a month,
getting crankier and scarier to be back
in his office chair, the one atop the dirty
yellow D9 in which he moved mountains
(and not of paper). In his office he’d be whistling
some old Country song no one but he could hear over
the roar, as he saw how close he could cut
that hillside without tipping her over again.
This poem was inspired by Writers Digest’s Robert Lee Brewer’s prompt asking for an office poem. I worked in offices for 40 years, but not like Dad’s.