By Jason Camlot
Wanda Whitson with the collar of her shirt parted,
Addressing the pastoral envelope with corncob pen,
Licking the pre-industrial envelope with earthy tongue,
Eating lunch on the grass by the gothic brown cathedral,
Crumpling the remains in a brown paper bag discreetly,
Finding the pleats in her half-cotton dress sensuously,
Having risen in vertigo with nothing to grab onto,
Dazed during her walk, her return to the development office,
She once ran away with a corpulent programmer of computers,
She once had a child, but it died on delivery,
She moved from Seattle where the coastline is rugged,
She lived several years drugged on the mid-western highway,
She ambled her way like a bear to the east coast,
She found a freshwater pond, and she felt that it cleansed her,
She looked for a job in a real estate management office,
She looked for a job as a typist for a sports lawyer,
She took evening classes in French & Spanish history,
She looked for a job on the campus of The University,
The interview succeeded, the colander was porous,
The spaghetti was spun to mandolins a playin’,
She started on Wednesday was welcomed aboard Thursday,
And some people liked her and some people didn’t,
But she felt home enough to loosen her shirt collar.
Special Cases (Previous Office Experience)
She, in the midst of all, preserved me still
A poet, made me seek beneath that name
My office upon earth, and nowhere else.
Mrs. Bortman, my supervisor
at the Jewish Family Services Office
believed in me, showed
me how to work the phones.
Within a week I knew
the locals of all my favorite
secret service officers,
I mean, social workers.
One sexy social worker
seemed so ditzy and sheltered
I was aroused thinking of her
in her office, in potential danger.
But most of the ‘clients’
(never call them ‘cases’,
Mrs. Bortman taught me)
were just lonely and depressed.
Like me! They posed no threat
but to themselves. Forsaken, and justifiably alone
some didn’t care enough to bathe, while others
came dressed as if for a wedding.
One young Franco-New Brunswickian social worker sensed
my bittersweet personality and took me out for a beer.
He described in detail why he had been
circumcised at the age of thirty-five.
This was supposed to interest me
in his foreskin-less penis, but I just kept thinking
how painful it must have been for Abraham
to make his covenant so late in life.
Warwick Office Machines (False Memo-Carbon Copy)
Attention all typewriters.
Across from Ann & Hope
there is a place for service
and supplies called Warwick
Office Machines. Call Jack
McKay if you have any complaints
about your machines, your office,
or about Warwick itself. Jack
is the kind of person who needs
other people to like him, so don’t
let on that you’re satisfied until
you are in possession of more
than you ever dreamed of having.
My present typewriter happens
to be baby blue in color, and
I LOVE IT. But you won’t catch
me saying that to Jack.
Across from Ann & Hope.
On Old Post Road, in Warwick, R. I.
Your office machines will be forever
at your service.
Excerpted from Attention All Typewriters, DC Books, www.dcbooks.ca, [email protected]