Stephanie Lenox

(after Christopher Smart)

For you are not the first to take what is not yours.
For the ballpoint's grip aligns perfectly to your hand.
For the string of paperclips makes an elegant accessory.
For work begets more work, and in the meantime, you need a box of staples.
For there are staplers and then there are HEAVY-DUTY staplers.
For you can never have enough Post-its.
For the card stock is beautiful and thick and deserves a higher purpose.
For you have an insatiable desire for paper products.
For the office receives an unbelievable deal for ordering in bulk.
For you are the one who does all the ordering.
For your children are returning to school and this is a form of tuition assistance.
For there will be no raises this year.
For the manager kept you after hours three days in a row to review the budget that should have been completed last month, and your compensation is manila folders.
For the letter opener sings with meaning.
For all the Pilot Precise V5 Retractable Rollerball pens at home have gone dry.
For your son is doing a science project and requires transparencies.
For it is just a pen, not a pension.
For to take what you need is an implicit reward of work.
For everyone makes mistakes and has need for whiteout.
For one in every dozen envelopes belongs to you.
For one in every dozen binder clips of every size belongs to you.
For one ream in every box of paper is owed to you.
For you have given your eyes over to the computer monitor.
For your wrists ache at night with tendonitis.
For your hands have been lacerated by the filing stack.
For your manuscript has been printed and copied at the boss's expense.
For the boss is a generous patron of the arts and education, though unwittingly.
For the boss has a leather portfolio with her initials engraved, and this desk calendar, it's a piece of crap.
For your boss does not even know how to turn on the fax machine.
For having considered the boss and yourself, you will consider your coworker.
For you have given your ears daily to the inane lyrics of your officemate's beloved country station.
For you have endured the smell of trout being reheated in the break room.
For you are the only one to refill the pot of coffee once it has been emptied.
For there is an overabundance of highlighters, and you are just helping out.
For your favorite cross-cut shredder is too large to carry home.
For no one knows what happened to all the mechanical pencils.
For you have written the manual that no one will read.
For ink is costly and dear.
For the indexing of bills and debts, which is still considered work.
For you have given your life to this company, and in return you should never have to buy another two-pocket portfolio.
For there is a price to pay.
For it is called attrition.
For it is called diminishing returns.
For it is called a substitute for employee morale.
For you spend more time in your roller chair than in your own bed.
For this is expected and part of the annual budget.
For the envelopes with small clasps hold their contents firmly.
For the envelopes with windows do not come cheap.
For to recycle is to show your respect for the planet.
For you cannot live without a three-hole punch.
For the legal pads have proved their worth.
For firstly work will come home with you either way, in spirit or in satchel.
For secondly you fear that erasable pens will become relics of the past.
For thirdly you are relieving the office of overstock.
For fourthly you have sharpened your pencils to the finest point.
For fifthly you have always wanted a date stamp.
For sixthly you are liberating the rubber bands and pushpins from their uselessness.
For seventhly you could be downsized at any time, and it is good to have reserves.
For eighthly you are assembling a portfolio of your outstanding performances.
For ninthly you will be blamed for taking them whether you have or not.
For tenthly it is your job to supply for your family.
For you have considered leaving the company if it weren't for their 20 lb. cotton fiber premium white paper with watermark.
For a man or woman can be measured by their assortment of writing utensils.
For the supply closet only has so much space.
For the solar-powered calculator cannot function indoors.
For the message pads come in useful when communicating with your spouse.
For you would laminate the world.
For you love all office supplies equally.
For no one but you really knows what they're worth.



Christopher Smart's Jubilate Agno has always been a favorite of mine. I've read Smart's reverential scrutiny of his cat Jeoffrey so often that the anaphora and rhythm of his lines feel inevitable. When I first encountered his work, it intrigued me that he wrote this poem while imprisoned in a madhouse, apparently for being a public nuisance and praying (sometimes naked) in the streets. From Smart's prison cell and mangy cell-mate, fast-forward to the modern cubicle, and you'll see that I've shamelessly stolen from the original in order to write "Rejoice in the Petty Thievery of Office Supplies."