The Man at Work

The man at work merrily chats away the working day

I see the man at work
More often than I see
My wife.

I've spoken more with
Him than with any
Other soul throughout
My life.

Five times fifty two
Times thirty six
Minus holiday and
Sickness is the number
Of times we've said
Good morning and

Fifty two times thirty
Six, a cheery Friday
Weekend wish and
Mournful Monday
Morning 'Hi'.

I've seen him urinate
A million times.
Watched him sip
His caffeinated drinks -
We fetch them for
Each other - one day it's
His turn then it's mine.

A thousand nights
We've journeyed to the
Office pub for office
Drinks. He used to
Bore us with his,
Business banter, ten
Years on resorts to
Forty winks.

For several years
We car-shared, passed
The sleepy mornings
Cursing traffic, health
And weather. Then we
Lost our taste for words
And found commutes
In silence better.

And every day I loathed
Him more and longed
To tell him so and would
Have done it but for fear
Of his humiliation.

So I struck a balance.
Kept my distance.
Ignored his weekend
Invitations but smiled
And nodded at his
Prattish conversations.

Now we are retired.
Yet still he phones
And breathes the same
Old routine jargon down
The line; so we chatter
And we pause and
Reminisce about our
Working office lives
That buzzed a bit
At times although they
Gave no special
Or reward.

He says I was the only person
In the office who didn't drive
Him round the bend.

He's pleased we made
It through, still friends.

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Poem Study Notes:

This poem was written in around 2002, vaguely inspired by a 'desk reorg' in the office, during which many people had special requirements regarding who they were most desperate not to sit near to ... and were doing their best to influence the organisers.

Also inspired by a general middle-aged feeling of childhood friendships (charged with emotions and derring-do and alcohol abuse) receding, to be replaced with grown-up friendships (mainly defined by small-talk) and a nagging fear that as the years go by it might be the grown-up friendships which endure...

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