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Tuesday, April 24, 2007


by Maureen Tolman Flannery

They arrive unannounced speaking
their officialese in your domain, review
with suspicion your deficient credentials,

accuse you of being inept
at what you do best and set about
improving on your efficiency.

An edict proclaimed
on an odd numbered page in their rule book
spells out your incompetence to a tee.

Your grass is too long; your paint
beginning to flake. Your polished chrome
sends back a skewed reflection.

A voice in your account book speaks
in colored numbers. And they puff up
with the power of naming your failure,

tower above you in rage
at your not having paid sufficient attention
to the nit they've decided to pick,

blame you for not intuiting intentions implied
between fibers of the manual's bond.
They do not ask you what matters

or by what standards you have governed your life.
They are looking for ways your aspirations
are not in compliance with rules

on a prominent page--and they will find them.
What can you say to assuage their indignation,
for the world has paid them to find your failings

as if they were mining diamonds.
Entirely unable to do what you do,
they will write reports, delight in each citation.

You may not speak of what you have made.
Do not trot out your rose-cheeked children,
a sleek product design or pleased clientele.

This will only convince them they should have
come sooner to prevent your life. You will turn
to words, but words cannot help you in this.

Your only allies are silence, knowing,
and the clean water of time that washes over
and settles to its gently rippling level.

Maureen Tolman Flannery's latest books are Ancestors in the Landscape: Poems of a Rancher's Daughter and A Fine Line. Although she grew up in a Wyoming sheep ranch family, Maureen and her actor husband Dan have raised their four children in Chicago. Her work has appeared in forty anthologies and over a hundred literary reviews, recently including Birmingham Poetry Review, Xavier Review, Calyx, Pedestal, Atlanta Review, Out of Line, and North American Review.