The Office (s)Kills

We performed scenarios and acted out
role reversals on how to answer the phone,
‘cos apparently now you don’t shout:
you must talk clearly, preferably
in a brain dead Home Counties accent:
“Good Morning, how can I help you?”
Punctuated by rising inflections
that overflow with inane happiness.

Then we moved on to not throwing coffee
over computer keyboards, although why
you would want to is still quite a mystery.
With all that knowledge to chew over, lunch,
a well needed break. Spilt coffee over canteen tables
chatted to our loved ones on mobile phones:
“yeah the teacher bloke is a right wanker,
and this is such a stupid waste of time.”

After lunch, training, yet another lecture
armed with clipboards and coloured pencils
we made notes on how to pick things up,
objects that is
we’re not talking anything useful
as in a night-club sense:
keep your knees bent and your back straight
so as not to do yourself an awful mischief.
Then again you never know,
I’ll certainly keep that in mind
round the back of the Palais
Saturday night.

Afternoon tea, which was liberally sprinkled
around the canteen, then such untold excitement
to be ushered into another lecture,
this time:
how not to get tangled up in machines,
how not to annoy them, or not tease them
with seductively loose clothing
as they will mangle your flesh,
maybe tear off a limb, turn you into sandwich
spread, or pâté if you’re posh.
Then you’re fired
for damaging the hardware.

Now we’re fully qualified, with certificates
to prove it, so when the phone rang I knew
it was time to initiate that training:
but hit by a rush of information,
things seemed to have got a little jumbled
and … well it is just possible … I might have
… kind of … panicked,
what with being extra eager to impress.
My mouth dried-up.
My palms went sweaty.
My heart was pounding,
which could have been due to stress
or even a psycho-illogical illness:

I chopped off your hands, put them neatly
in the stationary cupboard, filed your fingers
under ‘D’ for digits. Lost your ears
although they could be in the post,
in which case you should have them back
by next Tuesday,
and put your feet, all tidy, in those empty boxes.
Knees bent back straight, OK I admit it,
I got flustered: but you didn’t exactly help,
falling to pieces like that.

If you have any comments on this poem, P.A. Levy would be pleased to hear them.

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