The Strategic Plan

By Carrie Shipers
Feature image: Voyages of the Moon, 1934-7 by Paul Nash

No one knows its origins. Like carpools
and happy hour, the Plan has simply always been.
Its awkward page breaks and stilted phrasing,
preservation of failed projects, employees

long departed, are evidence of its ambition,
how it defies the limits of language, software,
human thought. No one has ever read the Plan
in its entirety. Attempts to download it

result in system crashes, sunspots, and recession.
A single hard copy is rumored to exist,
its pristine pages collated and punched,
then stored in binders ordered on a shelf—

but no one knows exactly where. A hundred years
from now, when the company has ceased to be
and its headquarters crumble, the Strategic Plan
will rest among the rubble waiting to be found.

Lacking an exact translation, its runic nature
will give rise to cults that worship its straight lines,
its acronyms and colored fonts. It will not
inspire war, only art and rumination.

No one who encounters the Strategic Plan
remains untouched. It features in the dreams
of former employees who understand too late
its vital truth: Every aspect of the Plan—

its ever-shifting goals, its layers of revision
and appendices—acts as both map and goad.
The Strategic Plan is perfect even
in its flaws. It isn’t meant to be fulfilled.


Carrie Shipers’s poems have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, New England Review, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, The 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: Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported), Photo © Tate, London

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