Poems for a Co-Worker's Departure

 

Whether by firing, pink-slipping, or skipping off to greener pastures, the departure of a co-worker can leave the rest of an office bereft and feeling abandoned. It is no surprise that the poetic tradition surrounding the loss of a co-worker is almost as rich as the long history of poems about love. The much-beloved Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser, depicts the acceptance of conclusion in his poem "Porch Swing in September":

She is saying itís time that the swinging were done with,
time that the creaking and pinging and popping
that sang through the ceiling were past,

There is a mournful limbo, a purgatory, during those two weeks after the co-worker gives notice but still lingers in the office. Some may feel anger and resentment, as Thomas Hardy declares, "How great my grief, my joys how few, / Since first it was my fate to know thee!" Or, others may feel tenderness toward the soon-to-leave, attempting to memorize a staff meeting gesture, the clutch of a coffee cup, or the arrangement of a cubicle -- all the small things. In "The Waste Land," T. S. Eliot aptly captures this grief:

The nymphs are departed.
And their friends, the loitering heirs of city directors;
Departed, have left no addresses.
By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept. . .

Of course, the co-worker may feel an exhilaration upon leaving, the excitement of "O September, O October, O November--/ You can take this job and shove it." as exclaimed in Ryan Murphy's poem "Alloy Sun." The decision to leave a job is always a difficult one, even in the worst of circumstances. The subject of Ralph Burns' poem, "And Leave Show Business?" struggles with this reluctance, this fear of change:

This elephant keeper shoved a hose up
The ass of an elephant every day. He
Told a man. The man said, So why don't
You quit?

As you stare at the unused terminal and await the pale substitute sent in as replacement, one should remember Elizabeth Bishop's words from "One Art," -- "I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster."

For poems about the departure of a co-worker, consider the following:

"The Waste Land" by T. S. Eliot
"One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop
"Failing and Flying" by Jack Gilbert
"And Leave Show Business?" by Ralph Burns
"Porch Swing in September" by Ted Kooser
"How Great My Grief" by Thomas Hardy