The corridor is carpeted,
no vinyl or linoleum.
One door from the end
the guide knocks and turns away – her job done.
“ Welcome, ”
the smile is practised and straight
as is the wearer
bearing, parting and posture –
Everything is parallel
no right angles.
No ambiguity, even on the first day.
Forms are signed.
Then a tour : hierarchal
presented to those,
to whom courtesy.must be paid
Others watch from the edge –
mute as a visitor is lead through the palace.
They’ve seen many come – and go. Another first day.
At coffee time, a jumble of handshakes
And comparison – that’s the point.
The predecessor was well liked,
proficiency can be taught
likeability, if not inate, must be learned – quickly.
The first lesson,
on the first day.
I always intended to look him up
but youth is careless with time
and when there was, I had to look down –
Legend said he was a lawyer in a former life
some rumours spoke of ejection …. others of spectacular abdication.
“I’m a painter son ” – the reply to the teenaged question.
Paint. It’s what we did
while the sun holidayed south.
Bleached mansions in a faded suburb
a once star, off the bottle and thinking comeback.
and no occupational health and safety –
un-dust masked lead paint
three tier scaffolding … “ Okay, time to shove the plank along.”
It was worthwhile for the money and entertainment value of the boss – Morrie
two syllables… nothing more ever needed.
At the hardware store. No invoice, only statement… “ For Morrie.”
Even if half, were half true!
With coffee, first-hand accounts of his battles –
with the town planning department
the street association
the Heritage Society
his wives : past and present. All abominable achingly hilarious
Flippant about himself and his ambitions
he told me, when the time came to purchase a house, to consult him
and he would tell me which ones not to.
Not a painter, a property developer
wide awake to the wide boys
a wheeler dealer and rogue, who every Friday lunchtime
handed over a bundle of notes … then drove me to the bank
and made sure I did : for my education.
30 pounds overweight – at least – probably 50.
I thought of my own physical,
probing finger ….
he couldn’t have passed the same medical examination.
The doctor said he didn’t, of that there was no doubt
he would have failed then
would fail now. “ So, how come?”
Antarctica in summer is winter in America,
for North Minnesota,
work imitates the seasons : fecund in spring and summer
barren in autumn
dormant in obese cold and wizened sun.
A man with two children and wife
Self esteem, or Food Stamps?
what can be seen, and what can be signed away …
“ I take my physician’s hat off –
and put my social worker’s responsibility on.”