Archives for posts with tag: employment

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

pregnant woman otto dix

Pregnant Pause
by Linda McKenney

I sat waiting, in a large theater, with hundreds of other high school students who’d passed an exam for state employment.  We were interviewed according to our grade on the test.  I was fourth in line.  The position was beginning office worker, which meant you had to do whatever a superior desired.  Responsibilities included typing, transcription, filing, making copies and other duties as assigned.  I accepted.

My boss had a monotone voice, so I often dozed off while typing up his letters.  The interesting aspect of that was I continued to type.  Of course, the marks on the paper made no sense, so I had to begin all over again.  If there was a need for more than one copy of the document, we used sheets of carbon paper.  The ink would get all over your fingers and sometimes clothes.  More than two copies required a mimeograph.

This printing process used an ink-filled cylinder and ink pad. Documents were prepared on a special wax-covered stencil on a typewriter that had its ribbon disengaged. The typewriter thus made impressions in the stencil, which was filled with ink and squeezed onto paper by the mimeograph’s roller.

I married six months after I graduated from high school.  Shortly after that, I was interviewed for a promotion.  The man who would be my new boss told me that while I was qualified for the position, he wasn’t going to hire me.

“I noticed that you are wearing a wedding ring,” he said.  “In my experience, young married women get pregnant and then quit their jobs.  I don’t want to invest time training you and have you leave.”

What he said made sense to me, so I never questioned his decision.

Six months later I was pregnant and quit my job.

IMAGE: “Pregnant Woman” by Otto Dix (1930).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda McKenney is a Personal Life Coach, Motivational Speaker, and Writer, specializing in Mindful Living and Eating. She continually reinvents herself, and her new adventure is writing creative nonfiction. Her most recent work is published in Silver Birch Press, 101 Word Short Stories, The Survivor’s Review, The Rush, and Helen: A Literary Magazine. You can join Linda on her Mindful journey by visiting her blog –- She also has an alter ego at



Poem by Fred Voss

I still have moments when I look around and wonder what I’m doing
in this machine shop
with these men
wearing steel-toed shoes
acting like I never read Shakespeare
Dostoyevsky Plato
I will never tape a poem to the side of my toolbox like
a drill chart
or a picture of a 1932 Ford
or a woman in a skimpy bathing suit
these poems forming inside my head secret behind my sparkling eyes
as my machine plunges smoking drills through slabs of steel
am I insane
between tin walls where never once in 100 years has a poem
been mentioned
where men would rather go to County Jail
than read a  book of Keats
for poems in tool steel worm gears
bloody knuckles
of old men who can still break out dancing
like 5-year-old boys
because they’ve made a tool bit shave through aluminum until it shines
like silver
there are enough poems about sunsets
about leaves
falling onto grass
how many times can we follow Dante down into Hell
the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
each drop of sweat that ever rolled down the skin of these men gripping
machine handles isn’t
a poem
each nut and bolt
tick of time clock
ache of bone
each hand
dripping with machine grease and cutting oil the one
that made
the world?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fred Voss, a machinist for 32 years, has had three collections of poetry published by the U.K.’s Bloodaxe Books. He is regularly published in magazines such as Poetry Review (London), Ambit (London), Rising (London), The Shop (Ireland), Atlanta Review and Pearl, and has twice been the subject of feature programs about his poetry on National BBC Radio 4. In 2008 he was featured at The Ledbury Poetry Festival, and in 2011 he and his wife, poet Joan Jobe Smith, were featured readers at the University of Pittsburgh and in 2012 were featured at The Humber Mouth Literature Festival (Hull, England). His latest book, HAMMERS AND HEARTS OF THE GODS from Bloodaxe Books was selected by the UK newspaper, The Morning Star, as one of the Top Seven Books for 2009. In 2011, he was featured poet in a hardbound limited edition of DWANG (London, England), and in winter 2012 World Parade Books will publish his first novel, MAKING AMERICA STRONG.

NOTE: “How Many Times Can We Follow Dante Down to Hell?” and two other poems by Fred Voss will appear in the upcoming Silver Birch Press release Silver: An Eclectic Anthology of Poetry & Prose (available November 15, 2012).