Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Some Days

by Liz Minette

Janice from work
is two stairwells away
from a cigarette.
Shoulders in a black
pea coat already
hunched against her
ten below break,
she stops me on
the way up says
"Computers are down
again - everyone's
dusting their desks."

This is what we do -
when the system is down,
when we can't take phone orders,
when we can't. . .  -
all of us quietly
dust our desks.

Standing on swivel chairs,
precariously wiping the edges
of our cubicles; and then
the computers and phones reignite,
the static and pop so loud
and thick I can feel
it on my tongue.

The company has come
to life again.  The phones
start ringing like we've
had too good a weekend.

Janice is back with Deanna
who's worked here since
high school, twelve years.
Amid the buzz, Deanna complains
loudly that she has told off
yet another rolling drunk
from across the street
at the Shish Ka Bar.
Says she can't take
another smoke break
and be asked again for
a light, a match, cigarette,
does she have a quarter or why
is she so mean when she says no?

I am hearing, I am
typing in phone orders
for people who can afford
to call and buy office supplies.

My right ear is tender
from the phone headset;
my left hand feels limp
and useless as I always
key punch with my right,
fingers moving faster
over the numeric pad.

To distract, I envision
little silver parachutists
repelling from my fingertips,
landing and clicking each
number with precision.
They guide themselves with
red and blue threads,
like the kind woven
into paper money.

In reality, our reward
for another year with
this place is a nickel raise;
a dime if we answer more
phone calls than last year.

One morning I answered
my apartment phone
by the company's name.

One morning I dreamed
I didn't have to go into work,
that I could do whatever I wanted.
Sun shining down
two stairwells, I turned
to go outside - I turned
to name something.

 Liz Minette has been writing for about 10 years and some publication credits include Earth's Daughters, Third Wednesday, Poetry Victims and Nerve Cowboy.  She finds herself employed at a community access television station in Duluth, Minnesota and djs for a woman's music program radio show.

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