To Do: Now What?

Wednesday, May 24 ~ The Last Day

1.  6:00 AM ~ Wake, shower, shave, kiss Pat goodbye, start commute.

2. Stop at Starbuck’s for Grande Pike Place. Tell barista Alyssa this will be last time I stop by at 7:30 in foreseeable future. Leave $10 tip.

3. Park in Lot C for last time. Try not bouncing like 5th grader too much as you show ID to guard for last time.

4. Pack up the office ~ one box only. Say goodbye to friends

5. Hand in parking permit and ID.

6. Officially retired ~ Check rearview mirror and enjoy the view shrinking.

7. Turn up car stereo to 10 ~ Play “Road Mix”

8. Laugh at commuters cursing on way home.

9. Daydream about what I should have said to He Who Shall Not Be Named boss on way out but didn’t.
Note to self: Fuck him. He’s there for another ten years, if he’s not murdered first. Hah!

10. Instead of gloating, watch out for cops south of Twin Bridges (Now’s no time for first ticket in 30 years).

11. Don’t miss Exit 9 making plans for future.

12. Park car, empty last two week’s Starbuck’s cups from floor behind front seat.

13. Leave box containing 30-year career in garage next to bags of manure, peat moss and other decomposing materials.

14. Take Pat out to dinner to celebrate freedom.

15. Go to bed and dream of all the things you can finally do now that you’re not anchored to The Job.

Thursday, May 25 ~ First Day of Retirement

1. 6:00 AM ~ Wake, shower, shave. Run to Starbuck’s for Venti Pike Place. Leave $1.00 tip.

2. Sit in kitchen, stare at Pat doing housework. Offer to help. Get sent out of room.

3. Take banishment to backyard and wonder about your Plain Language Project and what HWSNBN’s doing about it without you.

4. Resist urge to call work.

5. Wonder when feeling of stepping off cliff, blindfolded, without a net ends.

6. Ask Pat again if there’s anything you can do for her.

7.  Go to Starbuck’s and see what afternoon crowd looks like. (Too many old guys. Can’t relate to Off Track Betting crowd. Remember to bring iPad next time to look artsy.)

8. ? ? ?

9. ! ! !

10. ….

For Day 23 of my Story-a-Day May challenge, I was charged with writing a story in the form of a list. I was dubious if I could make something happen in that format, but I remembered my last day of work before my retirement. Polished with hyperbole and a twist of imagination and here you have a story…I hope.

Dad Had the Corner Office, the One with the View


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.

Rooftop Icarus

I recall how the tiny bits of gravel
on the shingles dug into my bare knees,
leaving them looking like a scraped
old orange with a sample of the
gray or brown grit dug in there
to remind me about the slipperiness
of gravity. About how the higher you climbed,
the greater the fall. About being an Icarus
with denim and flannel wings.
That’s what I most remember, even more
than seeing a larger world from above,
while so much below appeared smaller.
Lying there, the flat of my back to
the pitched drape of decision my climb
to a higher plane offered.
In the morning or evening you had
a choice of staring into that light
or skittering over to the solar leeward side
of the house, where a too-quick move
could leave you scraped and bloody
or sliding with a skipped heartbeat
and then the air-hammer nailing of
that very abridged account of
your existence to the inside of your chest.
Believe me, it is the only time in your life
where you’re happy to end up in the gutter.

In My Moccasins

Iroquois moccasins

It says this computer is “monitored”
by the air-sucking Big Brother
in this building where,
like shoes at the entance of a Mosque,
souls are left at the door.
The difference though?
Eventually this place steals our soles.

That’s bureaucracy for you,
even when you’re on its inside.
Lifeless eyes walking darkened corridors,
looking at nothing, but seeing everything.
Today, though, I thought I’d leave a sign
my soul was here, this parting footprint
on their sticky tile floors.

Gonna jump the reservation soon
and I’ll need my moccasins
to make this gray-haired getaway,
my new life on the run.



Wrapped, sealed and bound, Photo by TACLUDA

Every morning in the dark before Today opens
the flaps of this box in which we lie,
stacked in its musty, dusty organization,
one atop the other, side by cardboard side,
I can hear birds. You can hear them, too,
if you awaken in that moment, or if you
never went to sleep in the first place,
everyone’s dreams nudging up against you
all night, whispering their prayers and curses.

You can hear the bird songs before Today
r-r-rips the tape off the wound that becomes
a chance to be chosen one of its toys,
to be spread on the floor, played with again,
bounced off the ceiling or wall.
I listen and think a hope of a dream maybe
I’ll get lucky and be misplaced this time,
slid under the bed or picked up and
liberated by the dog, before I’m put away again
in this box so carefully labeled Tomorrow.

Fighting the Current

English: Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis...

English: Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) catching salmon at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park, Alaska. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The sunless trail turns left
and breaks through into
the sterile clearing and its carpet
of rank smelling gloom.
All around rings with the cicada song
of air-conditioning and mini-fridge,
and Bear alone disturbs the ripple
of this eddy in the shallow stream
of sound.

What passes for dawn here beams blue
from the flat-screen sun burning
not his pallid face, only his retinas.
Old flashing words fight the current,
and the silvertip grizz wades in,
plucking them from the air to feed
his need before the other beasts
lumber in to scare them back
to the depths.

It is sunrise in Cubicle 200-A.

Purple Awakening

Purple Clouds

Purple Clouds (Photo credit: amandabhslater)

Purple clouds daub the eastern sky,
bruising reminders of this,
my abusive relationship with winter
and dawn. I traverse the slippery slope
of driveway, highway, my way,
to get this body where it is scheduled to be.
So, with two left feet on the gas,
I lock myself in this well-rehearsed,
one-track commute to and from
everyday butt whoopings.
But whoopings are what I learned
(somewhere) someone’s got to take
for the team, and it’s not right for
just anyone to be that someone.
No one can do it so well as I.
That’s how I got these garlands
of that purple I wear hidden
from dawn to sunset…
and from you and often even me.