by Alan Horvath

Kirpan Press, 2003


the way it is

the city smells in summer:
cigarette smoke & bus fumes
are baked with soot clinging
to old stone buildings

this odor is what makes
the city what it is —
the blood which
sustains the heart
& allows life to flow
into tiny crevices

I stand on the curb
& inhale everything
because this is
who I am


deaf, dumb & blind

those of you
who cannot believe
that poetry exists in
an office environment
have never heard
the howl of a trapped dog
moments before he chews off
his own leg



the employer's mission statement

our goal is to make as much profit
as possible at the expense & detriment
to every one of our employees.

we promise never to be fair
without the threat of a pending

after we destroy the company
& devalue the stock into "junk" status,
we will float, using our golden parachutes,
into a cushy retirement
at age 55.


the scorecard

the players participate
in this game for the thrill
of the competition & not for
any form of job satisfaction.

they constantly perform
risk management assessments:
trying not to be the last person
holding the bag for the failures
& finding ways to adhere their
names to other employees'

the permanently disabled walk
with a slight bent from the weight
of knives sunk into their backs.

they are too insecure
about their job skills
to search for different employment
& too scared of the real world
to leave this dysfunctional


a cold stone

if his jaw was shut any tighter,
he would need to cram his food
up his asshole or else

he is from "the old school"
which believes
knowledge is power
& so he keeps everyone
in his department
in the dark —
like mushrooms.

on the few occasions
when he reluctantly
opens his mouth,
he complains
about his manager
keeping him out
of the communication loop.

only shit rolls
downhill. . .


yes, sir

the moron thinks
he will get my attention
every time he stomps
his feet whenever
he enters my cubicle

or calls my name
over his partition
which is three rows away
from mine

I have planted
iraqi landmines
at my cubicle entrance
& only obey
the static hum
of the inadequate
air conditioning system.


coffee break

they feed us
office coffee
to keep everyone
for productivity.

the caffeine pushes us
to the edge of reason
& dilutes
the little bit
of common sense
we have remaining.

management considered
injecting a much stronger
drug into the coffee,
but later thought that,
if discovered, it might be
perceived as unethical
& probably


changing of the guard

the dispassionate director
retired after 35 years
of service to the organization.

his hand-picked successor
is an ox who worked his way
through the ranks,
but doesn't know squat
about what our group does
or how we do it.

this buffoon owes favors
to everyone in corner offices
who allowed him to rise to
his current position;
a "how high?" guy
(as in: when
upper management
says jump, he asks . . .).

everyone in our
department began thinking
of ways to do their job
in spite of him.


a part of the job

my supervisor asks me
to develop an "action plan"
detailing my next project.
I create a thorough work outline
with a defined scope, milestones
& expected results.

"no no no no no," he exclaims.
I am told that I need
to think outside the box.
he orders me to arrange a meeting
with other employees who, I know,
understand this particular subject
even less than he does.

against my better judgment
I talk with his people who amaze
me by being dimmer light bulbs
than I imagined.

I return empty-handed to my boss.
"well, of course, you have nothing.
those people are in the wrong department.
you should discuss this matter with
these people. . . "
& rattles off all the
contact names from my initial list.
"after that, you can do this. . ." & proceeds
to repeat my entire "action plan" in order
as if it was his original idea.

I must learn to analyze
these assignments for myself
he tells me.

so noted.


as time goes by

the clock on the wall
has two speeds:
an agonizing slowness
& the screaming bullet.

morning progresses
like a bowel movement
where the turd is stuck
halfway out your asshole;
the more you try to free it,
the more immobile it becomes.

lunch seems like a
figment of your imagination.
by the time you decompress
from the morning's pressure,
you are at the surface
needing to dive back into
the depths of your misery.

the afternoon feels as if
you are having major surgery
without enough anesthetic.
you can taste the blood
in the back of your throat.

someone should call somebody.
the authorities must be notified!


the client

the buzz around the office
is that the client's representatives
will be on site today.
"look busy!" is dispatched
on company e:mail (as if the
paper piles on everyone's desk
are merely native American
burial sites).

at 10 am they are paraded
around the floors like
world leaders at an
economic summit.

behind their gray, iron jaws
& designer-label suits
are pressing thoughts of:
turbulence during yesterday's flight,
hard hotel mattresses,
will they be taken to the "déjà vu" for
lap dances?

upper management never
confuses the issues with facts.
lunch is scheduled as
an early agenda item
for the morning's meeting.


time off for good behavior

the talk in the break room
centers around what
people did on the holiday.

some escaped to the mountains,
others drove to lakes & rivers
to swim or kill fish.

this must be the "good life"
our fathers spoke about;

everyone pretending that
an extra day off is enough
compensation for
the wasted years.


ray gates

his wife took their children
to church that morning.
I imagine him walking
through the quiet house
before he sat at the table
to write the note.

THE JOB consumed his life.
it forced him to disregard
all which was sacred
& made itself GOD.

he had fallen behind.
no matter whether
he stayed late or
worked weekends,
the amount of accounting
reports due
never seemed to be
finished as fast as
management wanted them.

it had to be his fault.
somebody owed an
explanation to the
shareholders, he must
have thought as he
placed the gun to his head.

someone had to pay.


the layoffs

first came the memo
announcing their intent
to downsize the company.
a few weeks later
the phone calls to meet
the big boss in his office
began happening.
a dozen employees were
"given the opportunity to
pursue other interests."

nobody bothered
to pretend to work.
they kept going for coffee
or to the restroom as if
being away from their desks
would change their fate.

the bloodletting continued;
each week terminated
with another bleak friday.

people who had given 20 years
of their lives to the company
were forced to clean out their desks
while armed guards made
sure that no company pens
were illegally removed
from the premises.

until they issued
a new organizational chart,
the odds were always
working against you.


the parking space

after the layoffs
there are a lot
of empty spaces
in the parking garage.

the guy, who had been
my main competition
for the best spot,
was terminated.

soon somebody else
will realize that the space
is isolated so that nobody
can dent the driver's door
& there is enough room
on the right so that cars can't
scratch the passenger door.

I will need to discover
the name of my new competitor
& then make his job


the buzzard

a shock
of white hair,
hooked nose,
& a turkey neck. . .
he sits on his perch
on the top floor
watching his
claw each other
while he waits
for the kill.

only after the carnage
has been gutted & cleaned
does he descend
upon the destroyed
careers of the former
demoting someone
from project manager
to supervisor in charge
of photocopying.

employees boxing
their belongings
& being escorted
from the building;
these are his finest hours.


dog & pony show

the vendor brings his wares
trying to sell the new &
improved product line.

armed with a "power point"
slide presentation, the lights
dim & the sermon begins.

almost immediately
there is the faint
sound of snoring.

everyone, who does not
fall into deep r.e.m. sleep,
is subjected to charts &
graphs pertaining to the
cost-benefit ratio
of the upgraded black box.

in the end
the lights come on,
we exchange business cards
& receive our rewards.
bottom dwellers are given
a pocket calendar or a
ball cap with the vendor's logo
stitched like a billboard.

upper management is fed steaks.


lost in the translation

you gather all the information.
you analyze the results
from different angles.
you even do the math.

it consumes your life for weeks.

you prepare the report,
annotating it with an impressive array
of technical footnotes &
a comprehensive bibliography.
the cross-references are checked
& then double-checked.

before final distribution,
you submit the masterpiece
to your supervisor for approval.
he proceeds to rip it to shreds;
not for the data,
but for the sentence structure.

he red-lines page after page,
completely obscuring your
hypotheses & conclusions.
whole sections are transposed
so that, currently, it appears that
the study was prepared by an imbecile
with less than a 4th grade education.

your boss,
who doesn't speak english
as his first or second language,
feels vastly superior.
the fact that this pitiful piece of garbage
is routed with your name on it
makes everyone else
think so too.


gold-plated watch

his real name is: marshall,
but everyone calls him: reb,
which is short for: rebel.

after working
out of construction trailers
for many years,
he was brought into the
office to impart reality
to the hypothetical designers.

with none of the pettiness
of the limp-dicked weasels,
when reb speaks,
the words project as straight as
an appalachian hardwood.

reb switches on the lights
in the morning & turns them off
when he leaves at night,
never stopping for a break.

except for fridays
when he has a liquid lunch
to compensate for working
like a mule all week.
his face glows red,
his speech slurs,
& this tall tree becomes
a large pile of splinters.

not much of a return
on his investment.


the meeting

from the conference room
to the seating arrangement,
everything is extremely political.

in an era
when the current company
buzzword is "communication,"
most of the attendees
will try their best to limit
the amount of useful knowledge
escaping their lips.

there is the high-tech geek
who talks incredibly fast
& uses words which only
a few people in the universe
can comprehend.

seated across the table
is the person who is beyond
the realm of his expertise.
he brings stacks of reports dating
back to 1980 in anticipation of
someone asking an inane,
irrelevant question.
this will allow him to spend the rest
of the meeting pointlessly looking
for an outdated answer.

on either side are the predators
who have no useful purpose in life
except to stir up shit & make other
employees suffer.
their favorite sport is swinging
invisible golf clubs at invisible
golf balls whenever they congregate
for a feeding frenzy.

at the head of the table
is the wisest of the lot;
an old mover & shaker
who knows how to survive
in the corporate world:

baffle them with bullshit
& deny everything.


peeing with the big boys

there you are with
your cock hanging down,
standing at the urinals
next to the
company president

here is your chance
to show him how
sharp & insightful
you are as a
valuable employee

merely inches away,
two guys pissing separate
rivers which will eventually
merge into the same sewer

he finishes first;
shakes, washes & leaves

this is why he is the president
& you are a mute fucker
with pee on your hands.


tweety bird

this short blonde has a round face.
she boards at my bus stop,
exits at e. 6th street &
walks north too.
she seems to have
a big smile for every guy,
although we never talk.

four months later
I learn that we work
for the same company
on different floors.

one day dave tells me
about a fantasy relationship
he has with her whenever
he is in the photocopy room.

I still catch the same bus,
but only see her sometimes.

it's not that I wouldn't
let her suck my sperm,
but I don't think
I could look at her little beak
swallowing my penis
like it was
the early worm.


little indiscretions

the secretary is fucking her boss

soon she is fucking her boss' boss

good news spreads like wildfire.


the temps

they are usually brought
on board to fill the gaps
created by laying off
too many people.

no benefits
or guarantees,
they are on site
until the particular
project is completed
or the allotted
funds are spent.

no one places personal
items on their desk,
like framed photographs
of toothy kids.

you only hear that they are gone
after you discover your calculator
is missing.



a gaggle of outside
accountants are auditing
the company's books.

each supervisor
takes turns disappearing
into the boardroom.

nobody says anything.

this sparks many rumors
regarding the possible sale
to a canadian conglomerate
or a mid-western billionaire.

obviously, manage
that this information is none
of our immediate concern.

they like to see us



(Circle Appropriate Routing)

Needs to Know	      Won't Understand It
But Won't Read It	      But Wants It
Big Boss	              Director of Ass-Kissing
Not So Big Boss	       Supervisor, Turf-Wars
VP Wannabe	              Predator
Sr. Manager, Bad Ideas	Backstabber
Proj. Mgr., Without A Clue	Backstabber, Jr.

Filing	                     Should Know But
Project File	              Do Not Distribute
Reading File	              Faceless Worker #1
Circular file	              Faceless Worker #2
	                     Faceless Worker #3

Priority	              Action Required
High	                     (If You're Stupid Enough)
Who Cares?                  Approval / Signature
Never to See the Light      Review and Comment
               [of Day

Sent By________________	Date______________


political correctness

it is impossible to work
with people when you
are always concerned about
offending their heritage.

now we have asians
instead of orientals,
hispanics instead of
mexicans & I'm completely
unsure what to call
"people of color,"
except not to call them
"colored people".

in the mid-1970s
I worked at a drafting table
alongside a black man
named fred.
we were both young
& didn't give a fuck
about anything.
we would do whatever
we could for each other.
end of story.

people care so much
about so little.


company picnic

the concept appears to be
a team-building exercise:
combine the jerks
who cannot get along with
each other during the week
& throw into the mix
their wives & children.

the result is predictable:
the dick-head at work
is a bigger dick-head
to his family
the most self-centered
creature in the office
is the most sociable & polite
person to you & your family.

for these reasons,
my wife & I have stopped attending
any company function held
during non-work hours.

I prefer not to dilute
my contempt for these fuckers
by being exposed to the type
of people they could be
if they ever removed their heads
from their assholes.


performance review

after spending a year
insulting & humiliating
you in front of your peers,
your boss needs to meet with you
behind closed doors.

he hands you a completed form
which has so many random
checkmarks, it looks like
he shut his eyes &
then started marking.
his written responses appear
as if penned by a fetus
in the early stages
of finger development.

overlooking the many times
you stayed late to finish projects,
he rates you as:
"able to satisfactorily perform the job"
& gives you a raise which will
increase your paycheck by pennies.

you leave the room
& walk outside for a cigarette
. . .since you always smoke
after being fucked.


quitting time

everybody in the room
is aware of the time.
people shuffle papers
to appear like they are
organizing their desks
for tomorrow,
but everyone knows
they are merely
killing the remaining
minutes on the clock.

a room full of
caged prisoners
plotting their escapes:
remembering bus schedules,
scheming carpool rendezvous,
psyching themselves for the
long walk down to the muni lot.

at last
you can see a spark of life
twinkle in the old men's eyes,
waiting in anticipation
for someone else to be
the first person
to reach for his coat.


keeping your nose above water

learn the name of the boss'
wife as well as his kids
& ask about them each day.
it will force him to momentarily
remember that he was once
human before he dumps
the crap d'jour
all over your life.

listen to his stories
& pretend that they are
the wittiest anecdotes
you have every heard,
how your life would feel
incomplete without
knowing these fascinating
facts about his childhood
& that his thoughts are
as unique as every sunrise.

wish your boss
a heart-felt good night,
stand inside the crowded bus
for the entire duration
to the park & ride,
drive the short distance
to your home
& then peel off
the layers of insulation.

let the shadows on the wall
dance for you.


phoning in sick

the radio alarm
awakens you at 4:10 am
from some deep void.

two peppy disc jockeys
are playing led zeppelin
& talking like yellow jackets
flying inside your head.

you contemplate
you next move. . .

at this point
death would be
an acceptable option.

you smell
toast & coffee
emanating from
the kitchen.

everything must be
all right with the world;
you are not needed
to save the earth
from an alien

you roll over
& ask your wife
to call your boss
for you.


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