Reasons I Can’t Come to Work #33-41
By Gary Smillie

Hi Shabs, it’s Tom, I don’t think I’ll make it in today.
I’ve got bad hands from defrosting the freezer tray.
I’ve not seen the doctor, but let’s call it three weeks
Especially as I’m pretty sure I’m getting Swedish cheeks. (#33)

Hi Shabs, yeah, it’s Tom again. Hope you’re cool if I spend
The majority of this morning arranging loose pens.
I’ve got upwards of twenty and that’s really just the Biros…
Actually, I better take the afternoon off, also. (#34)

Hey Shabs, Tom here, look you really won’t believe,
I forgot to mention yesterday: I’m not recently bereaved
But just now I remembered that my granddad’s still dead
I think it’s best that, in his memory, I spend the day in bed. (#35)

Hi Shabs, yeah, that’s right, you’ve guessed it: Tom.
You know that thing when your earlobes throb?
Shabs don’t laugh, it’s a real condition. (#36)
Shabs, yeah, Tom: holes in my mittens. (#37)

Hello Shabs…Yo shabs…Hey Shabba, my man…
Blocked bins…scalp crabs…illuminous tan. (#s38-40)
No, the thing is, the truth, if I’m honest, it’s this:
Each new day in that place is like drowning in piss
And my soul’s so eroded that soon I’ll be hollow. (#41)
What’s that Shabs? Pay rise? I’ll see you tomorrow.

IMAGE: “Telephone” street art by Jerome Mesnager (2012).


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The creative process behind this piece is fairly simple — two mates in rubbish jobs mucking around.  Tom, from whose perspective I write the poem, was a good friend of mine when we both in our early twenties and had tedious office jobs.  We both used to amuse each other with our varied reasons for staying off work.  Tom’s line manager was called Shabs, which I just found an inherently comic name anyway, especially as I was never quite sure what gender Shabs was (I didn’t want to ask; I liked the mystery).  I wrote the poem as a kind of tribute to the sheer frustrated creativity of the under-stimulated mind and for stoic office managers everywhere.  After all, they must have heard tons of this crap!

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Tom (left) and Me (Right) enjoying escaping the hell of our first jobs (Liverpool, 2005).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gary Smillie  is a writer of poems and prose from the North of England.  Hailing from Liverpool, he now plies his trade in Manchester and, over the last decade, has read at various seedy bars and clubs both there and in London.  He is interested in the underdog, the misfit characters who linger on the fringes of society, and the way in which we each slowly lose or realise our hopes and dreams (usually the former) — often by a process of apparently unremarkable increments.  He recently finished his first novel, which is as yet unpublished.  More of his work can be found at writeoutloud,net and