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The 1961 Office Christmas Party
by Rose Mary Boehm

I am trying to be attentive.
He is so taken with himself I can only
admire his dedication. I am in Sales,
he says. You have no idea,
he says. If it wasn’t for us, he says.
I can feel my smile
freeze, but he’s important,
everyone knows him. They say
he’s laid half of accounts. The girls,
that is. Have another vodka.
Straight.
His eyes shine now that he’s
talking money. Oh how they shine.
So much, so big. So.
Somewhere behind us
the guys from the art department
are bawling “Good King Wenceslas”
and that’s the only part
of the lyrics they know.
Syd from sales will not be deterred.
I’ve seen you around, he says.
You’re hot, he says.
You’re pissed, I think.
He pushes his chair closer,
looks deep into my
décolleté. His breathing laborious,
his eyes half shut, his hand
erring on the side of boldness.
There’s nothing for it.
I gently empty my glass
over his starched shirt front.
Bitch, he hisses.
Dance with me. I start. The boss puts
a heavy hand on my shoulder.

PHOTO: Syd from sales and the author (Munich, 1961).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In the poem I remember a time when modern feminism was still only a twinkle in some of our eyes, and sexual harassment was considered (by the men) a perfectly normal pursuit, making office parties generally claustrophobic affairs as well as delicate balancing acts between pretending to be enjoying yourself and saying “no” without hurting egos.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm, lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of two novels and a poetry collection (TANGENTS) published in 2011 in the in UK, well over 100 of her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in a good two dozen US poetry reviews as well as in some print anthologies and Diane Lockward’s The Crafty Poet. She won third place in the 2009 Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse (US), was semi-finalist in the Naugatuck poetry contest 2012/13 and has been a finalist in several Goodreads contests, winning it in October 2014; a new poetry collection is earmarked for publication in 2016 the US.