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Author Topic: To men (and women) in Gray Flannel Suits  (Read 1513 times) Average Rating: 0
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TomS
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« on: February 24, 2004, 08:57:49 AM »

The Last Hours

There's some innocence left,
and these are the last hours of an empty afternoon
at the office, and there's the clock
on the wall, and my friend Frank
in the adjacent cubicle selling himself
on the phone.
       I'm twenty-five, on the shaky
ladder up, my father's son, corporate,
clean-shaven, and I know only what I don't want,
which is almost everything I have.
       A meeting ends.
Men in serious suits, intelligent men
who've been thinking hard about marketing snacks,
move back now to their window offices, worried
or proud. The big boss, Horace,
had called them in to approve this, reject that--
the big boss, a first-name, how's-your-family
kind of assassin, who likes me.
       It's 1964.
The sixties haven't begun yet. Cuba is a larger name
than Vietnam. The Soviets are behind
everything that could be wrong. Where I sit
it's exactly nineteen minutes to five. My phone rings.
Horace would like me to stop in
before I leave. Stop in. Code words,
leisurely words, that mean now.
       Would I be willing
to take on this? Would X's office, who by the way
is no longer with us, be satisfactory?
About money, will this be enough?
I smile, I say yes and yes and yes,
but--I don't know from what calm place
this comes--I'm translating
his beneficence into a lifetime, a life
of selling snacks, talking snack strategy,
thinking snack thoughts.
       On the elevator down
it's a small knot, I'd like to say, of joy.
That's how I tell it now, here in the future,
the fear long gone.
By the time I reach the subway it's grown,
it's outsized, an attitude finally come round,
and I say it quietly to myself, I quit,
and keep saying it, knowing I will say it, sure
of nothing else but.

-- by Stephen Dunn, from Different Hours (W.W. Norton).
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erracht
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« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2004, 10:21:30 AM »

That's some cool stuff. Thanks for sharing.
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David
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« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2004, 12:06:47 PM »

Thanks, Tom.  I read this only five minutes before I heard Garrison Keillor recite it on "The Writer's Almanac" on NPR.

An interesting case of deja vu(or perhaps microprovidence). Smiley
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Linus7
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« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2004, 11:11:03 AM »

Nice writing, but the outcome was too easy and predictable.

What about the pathos of the poor, hard-working slob who sucks it up and keeps on "selling snacks, talking snack strategy,
thinking snack thoughts" until he's old enough to retire?

I'm waiting for something addressed to those of us in red flannel underwear.  Wink
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« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2004, 09:08:00 PM »

This is very powerful writing.  It sort of reminds me of the movie "Office Space."  I though the line of

"and I know only what I don't want, which is almost everything I have."

These words could be expressed by millions of Americans in 2004.
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gregory2
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« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2004, 09:08:43 PM »

Sorry, typing-brain-fart.  I meant that the line i quoted above was the most powerful of the piece.
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« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2004, 02:46:38 AM »

Yes, I am envious of writing of that quality. I also appreciated the actual corporate setting having recently concluded 5 years of proprietary software consulting for the snack food industry (and subsequently finding much more time for church and losing 30 pounds as a result!)  Cheesy

Demetri
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"Religion is a neurobiological illness and Orthodoxy is its cure." - Fr. John S. Romanides
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