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From the April Issue


Out of Office Reply

Between the designated dates
Your note will join its inbox-mates

In transient oblivion
(A prelude to a longer one).

For now alike and equal park,
In code and unconsulted dark:

Proposals and requests for them,
A crisis someone has to stem,

Dire pleas to sign off, get on board,
Weigh in on whose ox might be gored,

A plenitude of FYIs
And some fresh score of Please advise

Along with, when all filters fail,
A boonful, perfect stranger’s mail

On how to garner instant wealth
Or boost my reproductive health

For only small considerations –
If not the day’s felicitations

From one bereaved, or once high-ranking,
Who needs my help in high-stakes banking.

This prelude to a pigeon drop
And all the epistolary crop

Must wait for me to weigh their yield
And languish in the Message field.

No exclamation point or flag
Meant to impress (or some say nag)

Will move its subject up the queue
Of tasks I have not yet to do.

By now I may have earned your curse
As slacker, parasite or worse

That you cannot browbeat or prod,
An unappeased or absent god.

To clarify this vexing matter,
I’m none of these – or not the latter.
You must find someone else to flatter

Instead of this gray office drone
Whose leave, for which he’ll soon atone

May not involve the poolside drink
And cruise ship berth that one might think,

But deathbed words, or if too late,
The settling of a slim estate.

On my return, I will correct
This little season of neglect

With all accustomed quality
And greater punctuality.

Until then, may you use these days
To find, in this desk-dotted maze

And chiefly in yourself, at length,
Some hitherto well-hidden strength.

When you are gone, may I return
The favor that I ask and learn

Which weights I can bear unassisted
But have in self-regard resisted

And which remain beyond my skill
And call for waiting, patient, still.

Then may I greet your work renewed
With something close to gratitude.


J. D. Smith’s third collection, Labor Day at Venice Beach, was published in 2012. Notes of a Tourist on Planet Earth, a humor collection including both poetry and prose, came out in March, 2013. He holds an M.A. from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University.