Colleagues are sort of these halfway-friends – We’re thrown together, not self-selected. In theory, we’re working to similar ends, Or maybe we’re likewise disaffected, But is that enough to ensure a bond ? To safely whinge at the bosses together ? Are workmates our mates ? Or is that too fond, If all we ever discuss is the weather ?
No, some of them, surely, are more than that, Are more than just somebody else they’ve hired. The ones whose desk you find ourself at More often that is strictly required. Someone we might even meet on the outside, Away from the phones and the morning train – Until one of us moves-on or is downsized, And we know we’ll never co-author again.
Colleagues are friends who we see in passing, In the queue to pick-up a photocopy. We snatch a few words, but no time for gassing – Till next time we meet, while making coffee, Or standing around with our cigarettes, To talk about sport, and celebrities’ hair, And the news of our cars and our kids and our pets – Till one day we realise they’re no longer there.
No, some of them, surely, are more than acquaintances, More than just people we spend our days seeing. When our social circle is too large for maintenance, Are these the ties that we won’t be freeing ? So will we continue to meet them to talk with, And not let them just be a face we forget ? What happens to colleagues we no longer work with ?, Our nine-to-five friends, once the long Sun has set.
Please remember to remind me Where I left my keys. I know you know, but will you say ? You do so like to tease… I cannot ask a god I can’t accept, I’m on my own – Just you and me, Subconscious – Be an angel, not a drone.
I know, I know, we two are one, You’re no more than a hunch, And Up There is infinity, That’s swallowed-up my bunch. I cannot ask a god I don’t believe To bring a fix – All that I can do is prod about Till something clicks.
So please, by all that’s holy, Shine a light upon my ring, And I shall pledge the soul I lack To better processing. I cannot ask a god I‘ve never felt, So I ask you. It’s us against the endless void – Just praying for a clue…
My brolly broke, godammit, Such a useless, shoddy thing – I’d really have to ram it Just to close its wonky spring. Always turning inside-out, And barely waterproof – I reckon, even in a drought, It’s still a leaky roof. I guess it’s better than nothing, And with patience, could be saved – But is it really worth the faffing For each time it misbehaved ? The ratchet isn’t coupling, And the popper won’t hold fast, The flimsy ribs were buckling When I tried to close it last. “Enough !” I roared, “you’ve tested me For the enth and final time ! For far too long you’ve bested me, But vengeance shall be mine !” I shoulda tossed it the day it was bought, But it won’t trouble me again – Until, that is, next time I’m caught In the unprotected rain.
Sometimes, Burns Night falls on the second New Moon, And that marks a brand New Year – So the neeps and the cock-a-leekie share the serving spoon As the beansprouts and riceballs appear. From the docks of Kowloon to the mists of Brigadoon, It all goes in the haggis, and the bamboo pipes the tune – As we all sup together, from Scotland Yard to Scone, In a typhoon of tartan cheer. Now me, I am just a Sassenach poltroon From the billabongs of Perth to the snows of Saskatoon – But a shortbread in my green tea on a global afternoon, And the paddy-fields of glens are very near.
Can I just say what a wonderfully weird experience it is to hear someone read Address to the Haggis in an unapologetically RP accent ?
They sculpted each immortal bust As patient as the coming rust – And when our steel has turned to dust, They’ll still be standing here. They’re made from prehistoric shells, Once crushed in subterranic Hells, Then thrust back up on mantel swells, For millions of years. Their flinty eyes have seen it all, Our might kingdoms rise and fall, From city states to urban sprawl, For long as time allows. These statues gaze their stoic stares, Untroubled by our fleeting cares, Just waiting for erosion’s airs To smooth their stony brows.
All mammals can swim, Or least, can float, Just paddle each limb And be the boat. It may be slow, And lacking grace, But it lets them row To a dryer place.
Even the elephant, Hedgehog, or bat, Even the fattest Or scardiest cat, Even the kangaroo, Aardvaark, or aye-aye – You know why it’s true ? Cos they’re mammals, that’s why !
All, that is, except for one – The landlubber giraffe. Once evolution had its fun, They’re not safe in the bath. It’s strange the way that they capsize, You’d think they’d learn to cope When possessed of long and mighty thighs, And a built-in periscope.
But on the land They look such gentry, Tall and grand When standing sentry. They are the backlash To the trout, Who make a splash By standing out.
My end was written into my very beginning, Into my terminal genes – My past and future are always inferred, Before I was born, my death was assured. With fate or biology, there is no winning, We’re entropy machines – But the road we take is mine and yours, To pass the time between the wars.
The flourishing show-off their fruits, As they always do, From star to plutocrat. And I want to hate their loot – But then I hear you Saying I’m better than that. Not better than them, no, They clearly are winning, And I couldn’t compete if I tried. But I mustn’t get low If I want to keep grinning – I mustn’t give in to my cynical side.
The skilful exploit the thing they do, Create a buzz, With even better times to come. Now the world’s not fair, it’s true, It never was, But is success then zero-sum ? You always told me, don’t despise, Don’t bitch and sleight – To be myself, and not some copycat. But dammit, it’s so hard to rise Above the spite, It’s so hard to be better than that.
Don’t snub them, don’t hate them, Don’t read the bad press, Don’t seek out their scandal, don’t kiss them and tell. But call them, and honestly congratulate them For their great success Which they handle so well. I can hear your voice admonishing me For unworthy bile And poisonous chat. I hate that you’re right, but we must let it be – So paste on a smile And be better than that.
I want to scream, and curse my fate, And spit their names – But dammit, I can’t give in now – It hurts to be considerate, But paranoid games Are indulgences that I cannot allow. Don’t suck-up and don’t condemn, Let it go, Don’t measure myself with where they’re at. I’ll never be better than them, I know, But at least I can be better than that.