Office life is the same the world over, it seems. Two poems of resistance to the problems of earning your crust, with an analytical look at a timekeeper. As for birdwatching, nothing is as it seems, while disaster can strike at any time around you and leave you miraculously unscathed.

This weekend’s poets are Martin Golan, Maurice Devitt, Carolyn Oulton, Scott Edward Anderson, and Sarah James (not to be confused with Sally James whose poem appeared last Sunday).

Different poems every Sunday, to read again and again. How to submit, see the first post in August.

KPA officedoor

Martin Golan
Job Interview

His desk is nightmare huge
swimming through the blueness of his room
His body shakes in robot-jerks
his fingers rattle on your resume

He glances at your life: the yawn
of lonely years you stifled shut
with outstretched dates. You ooze
enthusiasm, alertly cough
You explain the reason for insane acts
Your words have no substance, they sputter and gasp
toward the ceiling, bubbles
from a deep-sea diver’s mask

He is younger than you
has never been outside of things
never drowned in the order of his days
or yearned for what he already had
or mourned what he had not yet lost
You cry, you scream, you leap
on the desk and dance, singing
madly to yourself
And when you leave
his door will not close properly

First published in the Paterson Literary Review in 2012, issue 40.

2015-10-01 16.18.17

Maurice Devitt
The Watch

When tidying my house
I found your watch,
once splendent silver,
now a dappled snakeskin

of rust, fixoflex
set like crooked teeth.
I was seven
when I picked it up

to try it on.

Each word a challenge.
Thought I could make
the hands go backwards,
wanted to open the back

and find the 17 jewels.
It stopped one day
at two-fifteen
and held its breath

for thirty years.
I wind it now
and the mechanism spins
through memories of you.

In two hours it gains
twenty minutes,
keen to catch up
on everything you missed.

Appeared in the Phizzfest Anthology, 2011 as a runner up in the Phizzfest Poetry competition


Carolyn Oulton
The Reception of South Square

Gray’s Inn, where portly types
separate their plumage to get hands
at trouser pockets, squat
personages, mute from a slight distance,
words banked up like sandbags in the sun.

Either side of the arch company buildings,
one used now for conferences, down
to a basement with boxes of files against the wall.
On its other side supports Reception.
company of duly bored ambition drifts to watch.

New important person trying hard
in answer to my joke,
to stress his own unfitness for the answering of phones.
Gallantly deferring to my skill
in deprecation of his intellect.

Today I am not answering the phones.
I shall let them ring all weekend.
Spare no thought for bans forbidding temps
to send personal emails at half minute intervals
thirty five hours in the week.

One phone call I smile for, when it comes
an hour or two beyond this early morning, where
I watched across the window as your face
slowly merged with sprays of leaf,
an arch of green and cream and so from sight.

First published in South in 2004.

KPA warblers

Scott Edward Anderson
Confusing Fall Warblers

“You changed your name from Brown to Jones and mine from Brown to Blue…” George Jones

Was it Hank Williams
she called the Nashville warbler,
or was it the black-throated blue?
Was it Wilson’s warbler
she heard in the bog up north
chattering chi chi chi chi chi chet chet?

Yellow-throat or orange-crowned,
from Tennessee, Connecticut, or
Canada, the prothonotary
clerks for the vireo from Philly,
who is neither lawyer nor warbler,
but is often mistaken–

Was it the hooded warbler
that startled her from the thicket,
or mourning warbler’s balancing notes
chirry chirry, chorry chorry,
that made her cock her head
to listen for its secret?

And tell me, tell me truly,
was it only
that sad country song
playing on the car radio
that made her cry?

(After Roger Tory Peterson’s A Field Guide to the Birds, plate 52)

First published in the literary journal Isotope and later in Fallow Field, Aldrich Press, 2013

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Sarah James

In Dominica, an earthquake cracked
Roger’s home like a walnut.
His wife’s omelette pan skipped off the stove,
their bed hopped the floor, chairs
pirouetted into shaking walls.
But cotted snug in a box for their breakfast –
half a dozen eggs, unbroken.

Visiting his mother in Grenada,
a hurricane peeled her house like an orange.
Winds stacked roofs, turned
tamarind trees into mops, uprooted
nutmeg plantations but left the glass
of his daughter’s portrait a smooth,
unrippled ocean.

Half-submerged in New Orleans, Roger’s shoes
walked in pairs on water. Tables arked,
chairs waded out the doors
and dead rats trailed the apartment stairs,
while his daughter’s dress
hung freshly pressed on her bedroom door:
dry and pink with flowers.

Shortlisted in the Plough Prize, 2009, and first published in Into the Yell, Circaidy Gregory Press, 2010, which won third prize in the International Rubery Book Award 2011.