Sunday, January 17, 2010

Writing About Work

A few days ago I heard this piece of philosophy about art and work in which author Alain de Botton states:

"We need an art that can proclaim the intelligence, peculiarity, beauty and horror of the modern workplace and, not least, its extraordinary claim to be able to provide us, along with love, despite current economic mayhem, with the principal source of life's meaning."

I've written a lot about the two years I spent working on organic farms while taking time off from college. Those years were valuable to me personally and also politically in that they made me much more aware of where food comes from and how much effort is needed to produce and consume healthy food.

I've written a lot less about the several years I've spent working in offices. Perhaps the office environment is better suited to satire than lyric? Anyway, here's a white collar poem.

The Secretary (or) A Turn Not Taken

The secretary chooses
her clothes from a palette
of khaki, charcoal, maroon.
Her job is to blend with the walls.
She tips herself forward, a cup and saucer
clinking. Ready.

Purple girl shapes walk into the water.
Girls in purple Spandex form a pyramid
on water skis.
Against the blue-green-yellow day
the cut of the wind
they don their sleek skins.

Their skis swivel—
            her chair swivels—
                        where did she go wrong?
How I wish I were a part
            of that pyramid
                        taking off into the sky.


  1. "Her job is to blend with the walls" -- excellent!

    For poetry about working in business, check out James Autry, especially his "On Firing a Salesman."

  2. And now that I'm working full time as a freakin' legal secretary, that "blend into the walls" line is so true. Yesterday, it was pouring rain outside the window of my office and people were walking sideways in the windy gusts, and I thought, "What if I just get up and walk out the door, outside in the rain? And just keep walking?" No, seriously. I was not kidding. It seemed wise at the moment. Nice poem, Kat.
    {{{hugs}}} B

  3. Thanks for the comments!

    Barbara, I think an escape into the imagination can serve us well at times like those ;)