Dennis O'Driscoll

The one chance element in my life is death,
the only unprovided-for contingency.
Its agents act on their own initiative
and ignore all motions, final notices, statutory instruments and threats.

I have signed the attendance book and started work
at the same time every morning for decades,
having read the newspaper for the usual few minutes
before unlocking files from the stell press.

Each day of the week has its different canteen menu.
Monday brings a choice of Lentil Soup or Scotch Broth to begin.
Tuesday's main' course is Rissoles or Shepherd's Pie.
Then, after coffee, we stroll round the park or handle gadgets in the hardware shops.

I have plotted exactly when I am due for promotion
and noted when each of my seniors must (regretfully, of course) retire.
I break in my new staff through basic duties
like ledger entries, photocopying or issuing certs.

On weekends, a few of my grade meet for pitch and putt,
or knock back whiskeys in the local lounge,
or I watch soccer on the box after cleaning the car.
Our wives are menopausal and chaste and our own blood is rarely hot nowadays.

I do what I can for the poorer sector through Church groups.
They are handy, too, for introducing me to men from higher echelons
who might prove helpful when I'm eligible to climb the office hierarchy again.
God, after all, pulls those who push themselves.

Heaven, for me, would mean a plush chair
swivelling at the desk of a Departmental Secretary
and the respect of all my colleagues
and the power to issue directives on mimeographed sheets.

I know where I'll be ten years hence and what I'll eat and when
and approximately what the evening paper headline will scream out;
and the paperboy will be folding my purchase as I walk towards him,
umbrella-swinging, rushing for the suburban train.

When the secret collection in honour of my superannuation is made
and I am presented with a cut-glass decanter, an inscribed salver
and a bouquet of masses for my wife and me, I will have blocked
a demanding post for long enough not to be forgotten, ever.

They will remember me for keeping standards high;
for never getting my name mixed up in feuds;
for devising useful duplicate forms to tackle work arrears;
for having streamlined, but maintained, time-hallowed ways.

Poetry Review Issue No. 7
Editor: John Jordan
Page: 38

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