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My Office

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I’ve spent the last 10 years
In other people’s offices
Learning the alphabet of nods and eyebrows
And pursed lips, straining for the purse
Legs crossed in easy confidence
Confident nervous gestures of assurance
Approved blue suits
And sudden dreamed-up lies to be delivered

A net of thirty days and sixty days and ninety
Insanely stretched past promise into years
Next week, for certain
Floated haphazardly on possibles
As slight as handshakes,
Firm as agreements of subjective verbs

And got nowhere.

This happy corner, sucking up hard-boiled eggs
And polish hots
The seidel sliding down the polished bar
Clatter of friendly pool balls in the margin
Not exactly somewhere, but a certain place.

A regular’s dark hair and polished eyes
Glow in the glasses lined before her face
Smoking and berating the muzak
“Jack, when you gonna get some country music?”

“Country Charlie Pride?”

Outside, it’s as bright as the important phone call
I always pretend to await
Setting up the lunch meeting at Stouffer’s
Linen napkins and hope’s frozen green peas

Set up another round of handshake laughter for the pictures

“Hey sweet thing, when we gonna have that date?”
The barmaid pouts a 1940s frown—
It’s Arnie (reaching now to slap me on the back)
A gleaming brazen polyester clown,
Tuesday seems longer than the day before
Since I began to organize my life around My Office
I stay a little later every day.
A little rain hangs fire in the clouds

Next trip, I think I’ll bring the wife

Lorenzo Thomas, “My Office” from Chances are Few. Copyright © 1979 by Lorenzo Thomas. Reprinted by permission of Blue Wind Press.
Source: Chances are Few (Blue Wind Press, 1979)
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My Office

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  • Lorenzo Thomas was born in Panama and moved with his family to New York in 1948. His father was a pharmacist and his mother a community activist. The family lived in the Bronx and Queens, where Thomas, a native Spanish speaker, soon became fluent in English. He attended Queens College and joined the Navy in 1968. After serving in Vietnam, Thomas moved to Texas. A writer whose work is both political and personal, he is the author of five poetry collections: A Visible Island (1967), Dracula (1973), Chances Are Few (1979, reissued in 2003), The Bathers (1981), and Dancing on Main Street (2004). Thomas was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant and the Houston Festival Foundation Award.

    Thomas was part of the Black Arts Movement in New York City and a member of the Umbra workshop, whose other members included Ishmael Reed, Calvin Hernton, and Tom Dent....

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