Rules of Order

By Carrie Shipers
Feature image: Eternos caminhantes, 1919 by Lasar Segall

To ensure meetings have a clear, productive point,
statements of need and rationale must be approved
prior to invitations being sent. If two important

meetings overlap, please disregard the laws of time
and space. Your project heads have far less power
than they’d hoped, their agendas set by management,

inboxes filled with bad ideas. To ease the burden
they’ve assumed, complaints must be voiced before
the call to order. Late arrivals will be penalized

with dirty looks, wobbly chairs positioned in a draft.
Because discussions may grow heated or not go
your way, you may storm out of two meetings

a year and leave in tears from one. If these limits
are exceeded, you’ll be elected secretary.
Otherwise please stay until officially adjourned,

even if you’re bored or late for surgery.
If a meeting runs over its allotted time, an alarm
will sound. Continued failure to disperse

will cause the sprinklers to come on. To avoid
a doorway bottleneck, you’ll be dismissed
in order of seniority or usefulness. We tested

these new rules the same day they were written:
we came, discussed, voted, and left impressed
with our efficiency. If due to their constraints

we brainstormed less, explored fewer options
or consequences, we found it a fair trade for the brisk
pace, guarantee we’d escape getting drenched.


Carrie Shipers’s poems have appeared in Crab Orchard ReviewHayden’s Ferry ReviewNew England ReviewNorth American ReviewPrairie SchoonerThe Southern Review, and other journals. She is the author of Ordinary Mourning (ABZ, 2010), Cause for Concern (Able Muse, 2015), Family Resemblances (University of New Mexico, 2016), and Grief Land (University of New Mexico, 2020).

Feature image: Courtesy Museu Lasar Segall. Image released under  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.

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