About this Poem 

"I have been thinking a lot about the machinery of work—commute, hierarchy, vernacular, etc.—and wanted to integrate my often conflicting ideas about them into a poem. This poem is about several of my jobs, and, in a sense, none of them."
—Randall Mann

Proximity

Randall Mann

Out of the fog comes a little white bus.
It ferries us south to the technical mouth
of the bay. This is biopharma, Double Helix Way.

In the gleaming canteen, mugs have been
dutifully stacked for our dismantling,
a form of punishment.

Executives take the same elevator as I.
This one's chatty, that one's gravely engrossed
in his cloud. Proximity measures shame.

I manage in an office, but an office
that faces a hallway, not the bay. One day
I hope to see the bay that way. It all began

in the open, a cubicle—there's movement.
My door is always open, even when I shut it.
I sit seven boxes below the CEO

on the org chart. It's an art, the value-add,
the compound noun. Calendar is a verb.
To your point, the kindest prepositional phrase.

Leafy trees grow a short walk from Building 5.
Take a walk. It might be nice to lie and watch the smoky
marrow rise and fall, and rise. Don't shut your eyes.

Copyright © 2013 by Randall Mann. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on June 11, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Randall Mann

Randall Mann

by this poet

poem
          in memory of Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Billy Lucas, and Tyler Clementi

There are those who suffer in plain sight,
there are those who suffer in private.
Nothing but secondhand details:
a last shower, a request for a pen, a tall red oak.

There are those who suffer in private.
The one in Tehachapi,
poem
?
is only something on which to hang
your long overcoat; the slender snake asleep
in the grass; the umbrella by the door;

the black swan guarding the pond.
This ? has trouble in mind: do not ask
why the wind broods, why the light is so unclean.

It is summer, the rhetoric of the field,
its yellow grasses,
poem
Jealousy.  Whispered weather reports.
The lure of the land so strong it prompts
gossip: we chatter like small birds
at the edge of the ocean gray, foaming.

Now sand under sand hides
the buried world, the one in which our fathers failed,
the palm frond a dangerous truth
they once believed, and touched.  Bloodied