By Carrie Shipers
If I said “Dead” you’d want me to describe
the cause and circumstances, promise
my demise is unrelated to my work,
which I don’t know for sure. Most days
I’m awake to my impending doom,
but the details remain dim. “In your seat”
would sound arrogant and also isn’t true.
I much prefer a cubicle to losing
my weekends or leading folks like me.
I may be surrounded by robots, but I bet
they’ll need a human standing by in case
they walk into a corner and get stuck, request
a reboot to erase having learned their tasks
are stupid and endless. Given you’re
a decade my senior—or else really
fatigued—“Retired” might offend
by rubbing in you’re nowhere close.
Too much focus on the future strikes me
as futile. Once the apocalypse begins,
we’ll probably all do things we can’t
imagine now. If I asked you the same,
I wonder if you’d have an answer prepared,
be flattered someone cared, or if you’d
be upset by goals you haven’t met.
Experience suggests I’ll be performing
this same show for a new audience,
either because the company’s at risk
of shutting down, or because I’m so frustrated
I can’t bear to stay. I’m tempted to say
“Standing on the roof,” then allow
an awkward pause before explaining
there’s also a DJ and champagne
to help us celebrate my latest great idea,
which I won’t reveal until after I’m hired.
I wish this question had come sooner
on your list. I don’t want the words
I leave you with to ruin our rapport,
but the longer we sit here the more
my vision narrows to the door,
the relief I’ll feel when I walk out of it.
Carrie Shipers’s poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, NewEnglandReview, NorthAmericanReview, PrairieSchooner, 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).