Work Hazard

A Series of Drawer Poetry

Drawer Words (i)

While its nothing as cool as
Ray Bradbury’s office on the show I ate up religiously
I do have a drawer that functions the same way.
Today seems like a drawer day.

You release your demons, your Kraken,
your ancient angels and your dragon girls.

Here’s a little flyer for the night
me and an artist buddy of mine
teamed up with this real smooth cat
“Lou” who used to work at a check cashing place
in the West End of Van City and he always told
such vivid and entertaining stories.

In one, this real jerk was giving
him a hard time,
but Lou, never one to be moved,
since he did have a couple
inches of bullet proof
between him and said antagonist
he very earnestly gave him
the international mime-sign
for “blow me”, even using
his tongue to create a phantom
cock protruding awkwardly out
one cheek at a time,
to which the asshole entered
fully-automatic fuck head mode,
and this just made Lou
all the cooler, a shit eating
have a nice day grin on his face
retelling the story, matching ours.

He ran his own promotion company
which consisted of
him and his token white boy
(as much a necessity as a partner)
and I remember dropping
my words on him
(literally a binder full on his lap,
I was so young and no decorum at all)

And he had a look like
“ah, you’ve got rhymes, but can go freestlye?”
and I likely gave a returned petrified, “Nope”.

I did my best that night,
my friend was experimenting with some
slide projection art,
and as I gave my best anti-Bush poem he
drizzled red paint on a slide of his face,
I realized performances
are often much more effective
in your mind than they ever are,
but still we managed to shock
an Arrested Development-style band
from Georgia who I will
never forget the look of fear
said they’d be
too afraid of getting shot
to ever pull a stunt
like we just did,
back home.

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Fuck This Job

I know he was Korean because he always took the time,
after insulting me in his native tongue, to translate.

“You know what I just said? I said
‘You Are a Useless Fuck’ in Korean!
That’s what I said.”

He would actually get on like that.
His life seemed to be pretty empty;
divorce had him haemorrhaging cash,
he barely saw his son, and he was always
miserable and convinced employees were stealing.

(this was exacerbated by the fact that the lead bartender,
some guy form Barrie, who gave me a job after I showed up
there and spent 100 dollars on Absinthe, was indeed ripping him
off, and good, for quite some time before I showed, then he quit.)

And he left me in his place to do a job I was untrained to do,
instead my training consisting of a long prolonged Korean lesson
or two, each time I attempted to do anything- serve or cook or clean,
and he would watch me, and wait until I needed to be told “No”.

This all only went on about a month, until I finally pissed him off
and he fired me, but not before I threw a glass of Absinthe
at his wall and told him to go fuck himself, in English,
using my hands in non-official ASL to even translate this lament.

Back then, anyone who insulted me in the workplace got a similar
farewell. I could go through 3 jobs a week in BC and never run out
of terribly oppressive managers to tell the same to. It was great fun.

I guess my super power that counter acted this villainy is that I did
bust my ass pretty good for the kind and generous few who taught
me better words, and received in return similar encouraging.

If you treat yourself
like you deserve
to be told off in
any language
you will universally
be saying to those
you encounter that
you are worthless.

You need to know when to say
“Fuck this job, and you as well”
in the universal tongue.

And that’s what the old fucker taught me.

He would hold after hours parties at his club
and all the young girls would flirt with him for drinks
and I figured that was pathetic and I felt kind of sad for
him just before I looked at him smiled, slammed what was to be my
last Absinthe at Tribeca on Georgia, and heaved it in his direction.

That stuff always did bring out my inner Bolshvik.

Hell & Uniformity

First Job

I remember the best and the worst of it.
The thing I hated most was the smell.
It had literally the miasma ghost odor of
every local butcher, medical lab, mechanic
and who knows what else, as its clientèle.
They washed the blood and shit, the vomit,
the grease and the chemicals. I remember thinking
the ISO 9000 and whatever on the sign looked
so Very Assuring coming in. This, compounded
by the sad and quiet Asian ladies who pan faced,
with no sympathy for you and you all fear of that deadpan,
worked the clean garments out on the other end,
in a complex splatter of trolley-style racks
that held all the shirts individually, then uniformly
by the dozen, forming clean corn rows of cotton
and polyester urethane. I hadn’t read Conrad yet, so
I didn’t know about it all yet. I had this yellow tape
player, and I remember listening to Radiohead, Kid A
and it was so fitting. “I’m not here, this isn’t happening”
then the guy yanks me on the shoulder and grabs the
thing and then and there I heard the gnawing movement
of the ornate trolleys of clothes above us on endless
shuffle, the massive washers, the cranes that hoisted
the denim dirty bags in the back, back with the little
elfish shop keeper. Reality kicked in fast. The fumes
made you high I swear, but not the good kind I had
enjoyed, more like the shitty time when I smoked
too much hash after eating a pizza sub from the Mr. Sub,
I remember it smelled just like BO and I wondered how
I could’ve ever enjoyed them, and forever associate
this factory and that smell on a submarine or pita.
The shop foreman was an ass and the manager
was better but he always treated the recent immigrant
types like shit, which in turn made me with my limited
understanding of life and heart felt connection to
The Autobiography of Malcolm X, associate labor
with cruelty and baseness for awhile I think. I found out
also that the manager, the little elf man with his ZZ Top
beard and short, stocky but frail due to limb stride,
had a sick kid. Here’s the thing though he said the kid
had leg Perthy? I have looked and I even googled it years later.
Was he a liar and a racist little elf or was he some rarer,
more susceptible to rarer, less-documented disease? My
biographers will have to ponder this and other mysteries.
(Postscript: I obsessed over this detail and gave it
one more university effort and it turns out he likely meant “Legg-Calves-Perthes”
syndrome – the French threw me off.)

The thought of nobody really ever giving a shit
kept me digging just those extra, necessary feet.
If I ever get out of this life alive, let me
have a night or two by a fire to tell you some more
of these wretched & beautiful work hazard stories.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legg%E2%80%93Calv%C3%A9%E2%80%93Perthes_syndrome