Why the windows are sealed

This is for dVerse’s Thursday Meet the Bar prompt “Setting“. I read the prompt when I got into the office this morning (time zone difference!), let it ferment throughout the working day, and this is what bubbled up… 

Oh and I should acknowledge that I lifted the phrase “rigor mortis of routine” from the Human Anvil’s ‘encore encore‘. It stuck in my mind when I read it, and has been sleeping there, waking whenever I unlock my office door.

The relentless hum of air-conditioning,
which neither cools nor moves the air,
is punctuated by the whine and click of a photocopier,
as voices, muted to an unintelligible muttering
penetrate the two-tone sage-green wall,
through the two-tone sage-green wall
of the office next door.
The recycled, recirculated
and rebreathed air
is tainted with tea-room scents –
old lunches,
tea, coffee,
monotony and despair,
diffusing down corridors
all sage and rose –
those dead or dying colours
pressed and dried,
squeezed of any life they may ever have had.

I sit at my desk,
the rigor mortis of routine setting in,
and gaze at the dead-flies
accumulating on the window-sill,
pondering their mystery –
where have they come from?
Have they followed someone in,
through a distant door,
through the labyrinth of corridors and stairs?
Have they made this journey,
and then,
trapped, unable to find the way out,
exhausted themselves
banging against the window,
and dropped –
dropped like flies –
to this graveyard of tiny corpses
now decorating my windowsill.

And at last understanding dawns,
as I stir with a finger
the dusty desiccated husks –
the windows are not sealed for security,
for climate control,
for any of the reasons
that we have been told.
They are sealed
so we don’t throw ourselves out.


Filed under musings, poem

24 responses to “Why the windows are sealed

  1. It’s been years since I last worked in an office, Kate, but your poem brought it all back. What a good idea to let the prompt ferment throughout the working day! I particularly like the way your hint at the layout and décor in the lines:
    ‘penetrate the two-tone sage-green wall,
    through the two-tone sage-green wall
    of the office next door’
    delivers a picture of the entire office.
    I love the appeal to sense of smell in the ‘tea-room scents’:
    ‘old lunches,
    tea, coffee,
    monotony and despair’
    and the close detail of the ‘dead-flies accumulating on the window-sill’. How did they get in? The ending is a real suckerpunch.

  2. I am way too high Kate, right — come on over and fly with me! I will be back earthbound tomorrow to read your stuff better.,!

  3. This sounds like a most unloved place of work. I have been in many of them, but the colour was always shades of grey (but not that kind.) If there is no other bright side, it gave you the material for a fabulous poem!
    ‘tea, coffee,
    monotony and despair,’ Absolutely!

  4. The analogy between the trapped, dead flies and office workers works brilliantly, and unfortunately, rings too true. Beautifully penned.

  5. I work in the office and due to the pandemic, I have been working at home since March 2020. My office space is a bit stifled (the feeling I get from reading your poem), and far from the window. I will be happier if I am near the window and can look outside for a breather. I believe in making choices in life – being locked in or sealed for our safety – is a matter of perspective. Thanks for joining in.

    • Thanks Grace. I’ve been working from home a lot too, but with Australia having relatively low case numbers I’m going back into the office now a bit. It’s nice to be able to do coffee with colleagues. I’m lucky to be able to make that choice. I just wish I had the choice to open the window in my office. 🙂

  6. Great images, I smell and taste them! Well done, but I want to offer you a holiday before it’s too late…

  7. I feel blessed to work from home the moment when I read your poem…
    But even then I think the modern office I worked in before has other hellish views… and it’s perfectly possible to jump to our death inside the building, as a matter of fact, it happened a few years ago.

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