Lodestar Quarterly

Lodestar Quarterly
Figure reaching for a star Issue 3 • Fall 2002 • Poetry

Dream of a Paperless Office

Shauna Rogan

Office jobs are like
asbestos poisoning;
slowly particles of cubicle beige seeped into
my lungs, and burrowed down to
soul level, lodging unnoticed.
One morning I woke up to find a slight
tickling wheeze at the back of my throat,
and noticed colors a bit duller. Now I gasp for
air and see in fuzzy
black and white

Offices should hang fading rainbows in
hallways and lunchrooms to measure death and
rigor mortis of the soul, like canaries in mineshafts.
They don't because, unlike coalmines, it is
advantageous to corporate America to not
disclose their employees are dying, to break their
Until imagination is the dream itself.

Cubicle poisoning -- looking into a
Mind and seeing only empty
Hallways. Looking down an empty
hallway, hearing the
click of stilettos and realizing
youth just hastily exited through a side door.

Wallace Stevens led a double life. He never bitched or felt the
dichotomous tug of art and
occupation. Stevens lived in his head, invented
words on the way to
the office and yelled at his secretary for spelling them wrong.
He said: "It gives a man character as a
poet to have this daily contact with a job."

I say Stevens was a pompous cocksucker. I say Eliot said it best:

'A crowd flowed over
London Bridge, I had not thought death had
undone so many...on the final stroke
of nine,' and Andy Partridge says: 'We brought
The cavemen from the Stone Age to the
Subways of the modern world. How they pack so
Many in- Quick! Call the Guinness Book of
Records' and on a rainy
Monday I straddle Britpop and
Modernism, longing for both
on a crowded bus with an empty
mind -- except for random lines running like
A man overslept, already late for his
8:30 meeting, reports fluttering to wet pavement like
magician's doves with mobster's
wings from an unlocked briefcase.

In and out. Created and destroyed.

I've replaced my brain with
Post-It Notes. My coworkers say
nothing about the twisted paperclip
corpses scattered by the phone or the
safety pin collection organized by
size on my ergonomic handrest. I am sharp,
I bring sharp and cold
rain into a sterile temperate beige world and
sit all day on
hold, on
Prozac, on Muzac, on
Donner, on Blitzen.

And I know I shouldn't
bitch. My job pays for my
studio, alcohol, sushi,
Extacsy, my cell phone I bought
from The Good Guys! Picturing when I walked in
a kindly old man with a Santa Clause
smile, not some underpaid Malaysian boy with
multiple earrings, and a head full of
bleach and indolence. I remember
being him, not having
anything, or ever thinking I would.

But, now I'm scared of trading in my
Extacsy for a minivan, my smile and
ability to see stadiums of
halogen baseball
games in the clouds for a scowl at those
who can't, or won't
work for a living, my fear when I
die that Jesus won't want me
for a sunbeam because I don't shine bright enough.

I wanted to write 'Kaddish'; was inspired to write
the next 'Kaddish' but I won't because 'Kaddish' wasn't
written by a girl with a cell phone and a 9 to 5 job. 'Kaddish' wasn't
written by a girl who says 'cocksucker' Nobody listens to a
girl that says 'Cocksucker' except to say:
"Shhhh, someone will hear you!" "Shhhh!
Do you blow out your birthday candles
With those lips?"

'Kaddish' wasn't written by Allen, it was
written by Naomi, but they locked her up for
being a Communist, a cocksucker, an
unfit mother and having the
nerve to say it, the nerve to
parade it out loud. He just had the
vocabulary and the adolescent
forethought to watch and
observe the anger, breaks in the
cracks, cesarean topography and
pinkblue lava of
blood and obscenity that was a New York
woman in Postwar America.

I'm not any of those things.
Except angry.
Angry. Angry at a world that makes me choose between my
home and my drugs and my lovers and my words and my
life and the freedom to say 'cocksucker' at the bus stop, resurrect the
forgotten Naomi's and
Babe Ruths in tie-dye
sunsets and live without the pressure to
tears in the beige cube at what I see on the way to
the beige cube every day:

The pregnant woman with the outie belly button and
cold nipples in a short black
dress visibly shrinking to grey:
Signs: 'Will work for food', 'Will work for
Dignity', 'Anything helps, even a smile',
'Fuck Food, I just wanna get high.'
Shopping carts with brand new
flags draped to the handlebars, and a woman dragging
her son to the curb
by his ear.
Every Morning.
Rain or Shine.

Last night I dreamt of a paperless office,
This morning I dream of an officeless life, then
remember the alternatives, trip
mousetrap reminders of what
could've been, and still could be, and
wish to find
A place in between dreams and days

In a previous existence I filched
quarters from registers for pinball and hoped
no one would ID me at the bar. Now I ask the bartender
to change a dollar, and ...'keep one for
yourself, sweetheart. I know these bastards never tip
well, if at all.'

Shauna Rogan is a bisexual, polyamorous, twenty-something who enjoys saying that five times fast. Among other places, her work has appeared in Comet Magazine, Spike Magazine (under the cheezy pseudonym "Lisa Stopless"), Mississippi Review, and Seven Stories. She's performed at readings throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and will probably be coming to a time zone near you on her fall/winter tour.

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