Stephanie Lenox


Stephanie Lenox is the author of the poetry collection Congress of Strange People (Airlie Press) and the poetry chapbook The Heart That Lies Outside the Body (Slapering Hol Press). Poems from a manuscript inspired by office work are forthcoming or have recently appeared in Poet Lore and Juked.


The Take This Job and Shove It Ode

Soon the children will come home having learned
new obscenities to hurl at each other
across the cul-de-sac, meaning “end of the road,
bottom of the sack that is your body.”
Division and subdivision, each weekend
there is a new fence hewn from raw wood
that draws more hornets, too many wind-chimes
at the mercy of weather. Your son has a puzzle
in a frame with one piece missing
that he pushes around and around
trying to make a picture. Your dog lacks control
and greets you so ferociously you fear
one day he will turn on you and eat your face.
What other life did you think was possible?
Sit down, you’re having spaghetti again, and yes,
you must finish it. There are days when you are the best human
humanly possible. And then there are all the others.
Failure, you will say in your next interview,
is an opportunity. Like the open window a bird flew in
was an opportunity for the lazy housecat.
You want to scream, Because of you I’m ruined!
You have not slept well this past decade.
At the office, there is a cake that says Farewell.
It is loaded with frosted roses
and it would be a shame not to partake.
A co-worker confides: It’s only the first and last
weeks that they even take note of you.
They, meaning management, handing you a balloon
and an engraved pen, smiling.
You are closer to the last week of your life
than the first, so squalling naked in a crowded room
would be hardly appropriate now.
Your boss once said, Don’t you ever think?
And you thought, I will have my revenge,
not like the others. I will take retirement
from these sons and daughters of bitches and never
look back. There is no sense explaining
to a beetle what it means to be you,
to get your kind of mail, to feel the electricity
up-surging through joints every time you rise from bed.
The sun goes down and everyone heads into
separate living rooms to watch different shows.
With such flickering, you might think
we have something in common. Oh, but we do.
The boss is the same everywhere and for everyone,
an asshole in a black suit holding a flaming cake,
coming closer and closer, and beyond that, the door.

I owe a debt of gratitude to my former co-worker Carla, who inspired this poem and others like it when she snuck into my cubicle, lowered her voice, and said conspiratorially, 'You’re a writer, right? Write about this.'