WHICH CAME FIRST, THE CHICKEN OR THE EXISTENTIAL MISERY?
And now I’m in a warehouse again.
I got a permanent position as a package handler.
My boss is a micro-manager with a dump truck for a jaw.
Every evening at punch-in time,
he walks over to the staff,
snapping his fingers
and whistling something way too happy-sounding
to be genuine.
He likes to make new rules.
A week ago, he made us start leaving
our cell phones in our cars.
Today, he wheels over a cart on which
there is a tiny television and ancient VCR.
After everyone punches in,
Dump-Truck Jaw says,
“Okay, everyone! Optional stretching
is now mandatory stretching. SOMEBODY
got hurt last night, so now we have to take
EXTRA MEASURES to assure SAFETY!
STRETCHING can reduce
the chances of STRAINS AND SPRAINS!”
He’s referring to Anne—
this petite 20-year-old
who sprained her wrist
while trying to lift
a box of heavy car parts.
I look at Anne, and she looks at the floor.
Her arm is in a splint.
I look around at all of my fellow employees
as the video begins to play. Most of them
rub their eyes or shake their heads in agony.
A chubby guy in baggy gym clothes jogs
into the center of the screen.“Hey,
everybody!” he says. “Repeat after me! Left arm
towards the sky! Right arm on the hip! Now,
bend to the left! And 1! And 2! And 3! And 4!”
The guy looks absolutely insane—
uncoordinated with rubbery limbs.
A reverse Richard Simmons.
Sluggishly, I begin to mimic his movements.
Everyone does—except for Anne,
who just stands there wanting to die.
Out of nowhere,
the biggest silverfish I’ve ever seen in my life
scurries past my feet,
making a break for the broom closet.
I don’t fucking blame it.
Find me at dusk in a straitjacket—
limp and drowsy in the middle
of the highway where traffic is backed up
for miles. Come to me with a sledgehammer.
Smash my gray bones to dust and snort them
like heroin. I want to be inside of you
in the worst way possible. Let the sirens
sing their demented lullaby. You’re going
to be famous for the rest of your life.
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, Literary Orphans, Words Dance, and other venues. He runs the website Philosophical Idiot, where he publishes writing by people he likes. He also hosts a reading series called I Hate Poetry in Catasauqua, PA. When he is not doing literary things or breathing in dust at his warehouse job, he is usually hanging out with his cats and/or wondering why his current love interest isn’t texting him back.
You can find him on the web at www.mynameisb.net.