I’m an office clerk now ––
trying not to think in pessimist clichés.
Trying not to think I’m a robot.
Trying not to think of the movie Office Space.
Trying not to image that my cubicle
is a jail cell and that my stapler
and highlighter
and computer-with-forbidden-Internet
are my cellmates.

There is an air conditioner in the corner.
“Air conditioning is a luxury,” we’re told.

And maybe that’s true.

No more panting in a warehouse.
No more almost-strokes or swamp crotch.
No more clumps of powder falling down my pant leg.
No more leaving powder footprints
as I sneak away for a quick affair with the water fountain.

Every morning, documents are delivered to my desk
by a guy named Tim with a wart on his forehead.

Tim got yelled at last week for taking a 50-minute shit
on company time. Now he walks
with a slow shuffle and never says hi to anyone.

“Tim should cheer up,” people say.
“Yeah,” I say, and point to the air conditioner.

One of my tasks is to skim the documents on my desk
for insurance-policy numbers
and policy-holder names. I type
this information into Microsoft Excel, then toss
the documents into a “TO-BE SCRAPPED” bin.

I’m making it a point not to daydream
about tossing myself into that bin.

I’m also making it a point not to call Child Services
on my pregnant supervisor. (She is currently rambling
on the other side of the room. She says
she has recently binge-watched all 5 Twilight movies
and is now considering naming her baby Renesmee.
She is completely serious about this….)

I walk to the men’s room
to check Facebook on my phone.

I open a stall.

There’s a too-fat-to-fly bumblebee
on the floor in the stall.

And there’s a brown streak on the toilet seat,
which is pretty fucking stupid,
but I force my mind to fill with smiley faces
when I’m walking back to my desk.

I ponder those smiley faces.
I ponder the goosebumps on my arms
and remember, “Air conditioning is a luxury.”

I hold these thoughts close to me.
These thoughts are my rosary beads.

I don’t want to feel sad for the obese bumblebee.

I don’t want to feel sad for whoever will end up
cleaning the shit on the toilet seat.

When I sit back down in my cube,
the self-proclaimed “socially retarded” UPS guy
walks in the door
to drop something off for my supervisor.

“What the shit-dick?” he says. “It’s freezin’ in dis bitch.
Why is da air conditioner on? It’s fuckin’ November!”





Opening the refrigerator,
I notice a cricket at my feet.
He begins rubbing his wings
together, filling the kitchen
with his rhythmic chirping.

I reach into the refrigerator
and grab a bottle of water.

I close the door.

The cricket doesn’t stop.

I start walking around the kitchen, opening
drawers, slamming cabinets, making myself
breakfast –– and he still doesn’t stop.

He knows I’m a threat, but he doesn’t care,
and somehow this makes his music
seem worthy of the Billboard charts.

He’s dedicated! He’s passionate!
He’s risking everything for the sake of his song!
He’s making a name for himself as an artist!

Now my cat walks over and eats him.





Another day of bad weather.
Black-inkblot clouds.
A frostbite chill.

Another occasion
to dwell on a romance
that’s 6 feet deep
in a garden of shit.

It’s my fault this time.
I kept my emotions
hidden under the bed
as if they were
an embarrassing collection
of Pokémon cards.

I was barely present.
I talked to you through pillows.

Now I’m in the backyard,
tossing kindling into my fire-pit.

In goes a stick.
In goes that notebook
I was always afraid you’d find.
In goes an empty scrapbook,
which I pretend is housing
some photos we never took.

In goes a cardboard box
of flammable pesticide.
If my heart is in mothballs,
I guess I’m about to burn it.

I light a match
and hold it
beneath the notebook,
thinking about texting you
and knowing I won’t.

As the box catches fire,
I tilt my head back.

The inkblots in the sky
resemble the Mona Lisa’s lips.
Maybe God is a psychiatrist
and I’m his hardest case.

I sacrifice two interlocked twigs
to the flames, imagining
they’re spellbound together
with lingering magic
from kisses we never shared.

Masses of mothball smoke
start rising ––
thick as the inkblots,
thick as the fog
that’s trapped in my head.

Masses of mothball smoke
start rising ––
additional pairs
of Mona Lisa lips.

Staring back up
through the skin-chapping air,
I’m uncomfortably numb
like David Gilmour
on his deathbed.

A crash of thunder rattles my ears.

I wait for the downpour,
but it doesn’t come.





I’m eating breakfast with Jane in her kitchen,
and there’s a fat housefly
walking on the brim of my coffee mug.
I can’t enjoy my meal. I can barely even enjoy
the new Blink-182 record, which is playing
loudly from a speaker on the counter.
All I can think about are chunks
of literal shit and microscopic vomit.

I get up, walk to the wall
where Jane’s dad hangs the flyswatter.

“Don’t you dare,” says Jane. “Don’t
kill it! That’s so mean.”

I turn around and look at the fly.
It’s walking on my scrambled eggs now.
More shit. More vomit.
My stomach growls with hunger,
but nausea kills my appetite.

“Whatever,” I say, reluctantly walking back
to the table and sinking into my chair.

“I’m glad we both love Blink-182,” says Jane.

The little bastard takes flight
and starts buzzing around my ear.

At this point, I can’t even hear the music.




B. Diehl is the author of the poetry collection Zeller’s Alley (White Gorilla Press, 2016). His work has been published by Hobart, BOAAT Press, FLAPPERHOUSE, Words Dance, and other venues. On the first and third Sunday of every month, he hosts a reading series in Catasauqua, PA, called I Hate Poetry. When he is not writing, reading, hosting, or breathing in dust at his warehouse job, he is usually hanging out with his cats.

You can find him on the web at