Ode for the Closet of Office Supplies
For cheap blue pens we’ll lose before they start to leak,
long yellow pencils with unbitten shafts & pink erasers
we’ll be first to use. Ode for rainbows of sticky notes
in sizes ranging from the tiny flags we flutter in reports
to giant sheets attached to their own easel. For legal pads
that lend us gravitas, scratch pads perfect for jotting,
embossed letterhead we love but rarely use. Ode for
the things that hold our thoughts together: paper-
& binder clips, rows of staples marching in lock-step,
rubber bands we slip onto our wrists or shoot across
the room. For unstained file folders, three-ring binders
with unlabeled spines. For box after box of copy paper
stacked along the walls, toner whose role we can’t describe
yet recognize as vital. Ode even for items ordered
by mistake—glue sticks & neon index cards that make
our retinas ache, jumbo crayons we secretly sniff.
& for the dusty gathering of what’s grown obsolete,
zip drives & disks both hard & floppy; overhead
projector bulbs & transparency sheets; pre-voicemail
message slips labeled While you were out; typewriter
ribbons & cassettes we guess go with a Dictaphone
we’ve never seen. Ode for the closet’s unlocked door,
the clipboard on the counter for recording our requests.
For clipboards, which make us think of coaches
and exterminators. Ode for such abundance no one warns us
about waste, inspects our drawers for hoarding or neglect.
We’ve been told the future will be paperless but we hope
that’s not true. It feels too good to fasten, fold & tear;
to write a line then cross it out or erase & blow crumbs
off the page; to highlight our key terms or connect them
with arrows in contrasting shades. Ode for the closet’s
crowded shelves & also for the faith implied by their bounty:
Ode for all the tools we use to prove our thoughts exist.
Performance Review: “We have some concerns about your character.”
We knew your interview had probably
been rehearsed, but we really responded
to your energy, thought you’d develop well
with our direction. Most folks come in
so fired up we have to tamp them down,
teach them to budget their intensity.
At first we were impressed you hung
back to observe instead of rushing in.
Then as the weeks went by without
you warming up or breaking through,
we thought you might be trying
something new that you’d abandon
once you saw it wasn’t landing right.
We don’t need you to chew the scenery,
leap onto tables when you disagree
or treat hallway hellos like close-ups
for your Oscar reel. We’d settle for
more signs that you exist and care about
contributing. Your face may not be
naturally expressive, but it’s not
that hard to blink, shift in your seat
so you don’t seem frozen. At meetings
props are key: You could tear a bagel
into tiny bites, stare deeply at your screen
or fill in your agenda by writing
raspberry over and over. We all
have quirks and phrases we sometimes
phone in, but you can’t keep missing cues
and clinging to the wings, flipping
the script when you don’t like your lines.
We left your audition sure of your
talent. Now we hate sharing scenes
because you drag us down. It’s not
enough to say you’ll do your part.
If you can’t make us feel that you’re
committed to the role we chose you for,
your exit will be early and final.
Carrie Shipers is author of two chapbooks and four full-length collections, Ordinary Mourning (ABZ Press, 2010), Cause for Concern (Able Muse Press, 2015), Family Resemblances (University of New Mexico Press, 2016), and Grief Land (University of New Mexico Press, 2020). Her poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Crab Orchard Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, New England Review, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, and The Southern Review, among other journals.