by The Inmate
but A Hell of a lot Shorter than the Original
(With humble apologies to Dante)
In Three Parts (Two & Three Not Finished or Even Started)
With golden watch for twenty years of drudgery,
I awoke at my desk in a dark, corporate hallway,
Cynical and over-worked, I was job-weary.
It’s painful to remember that doomsday
When office stairways descended into the pit
And I, frightened, slumped down on the floor to pray.
Then a torch appeared with a wise man holding it.
“Come,” he said, “there is no way to attain paradise
Except through cubicles built for first rate punishment.”
I knew my guide, critic of bureaucratic vice,
From school days when nineteen-eighty-four seemed
A distant future not worth any sacrifice.
Above the basement elevator was this screed:
“Abandon hope all ye who clock in here;
Sights below reveal each absurd business deed.”
On level one the brown-nosers stood near,
Who risked not disagreement by sharing creative thought,
For fear the rung on which they stood might disappear.
“Ask who they are,” my master said, but I could not
Since I trembled much, so he inquired for me.
They shook their heads in puzzlement with great distraught.
“Because they only tried to be who they were not,”
My guide explained, “to gain influence and position,
Here identity is lost forever–they are naught.”
Between huge stacks of useless memos our mission
Continued its descent to level two,
Where we watched workaholics’ decomposition.
In that frenzied place fingers to the bone are chewed,
Bees buzz about thick as smoke and overworkers
Collide with their peers in a furious milieu
Of ignorance: they know not why they do what they do.
“We must leave!” I cried. “My heart weakens; my bowels ache,
This busyness is to my head like a thumbscrew!”
Downward we rushed while behind us they quaked.
“Strength is endless meetings; overtime is freedom,”
They chanted, but I knew their words were fake.
In the third level all to the advertiser succumb:
“You need this! Buy that! Newer is better! Don’t wait!”
“Who listens?” I asked my guide. “I see only a slum.”
Before us, past an electronic swinging gate,
I saw junk-pile pyramids, many larger than a
Pharaoh’s grave, others no bigger than a crate.
Erected with v.c.r.’s, houses, yachts and chardonnay,
Fast food, clothes, books, cars and jewelry,
Each mound had every want of those who stray.
Then my master instructed: “Listen Carefully.”
From underneath came labored breaths, desperate voices:
“Please, sir, a larger credit line with lower fees?”
My guide spoke: “These had many possibilities,
But always chose to live beyond their means,
So here they suffocate for eternity.”
For many days we traveled through this horrid scene
In near darkness, then– before us–a gigantic gate
Guarded by two hideous beasts of the machine.
I stood frozen behind my master like a paperweight.
For heads the creatures had color computer monitors,
For ears high-volume speakers. A breastplate
Of Teflon adorned their chests, two keyboards
Formed their jaws. Front feet? Fax machines. Back? Photocopiers.
Not one mouse but hundreds writhed like a horde
Near their heads. For bodies thousands of hard-drives jeered.
“Fear me you fools!” spoke the first. “Evil incarnate am I.”
“From me only good can come!” said the second much too near.
My body chilled. “Kill them quickly,” I yelled at my guide.
“Be calm,” he said, then snatched from each monster a mouse
And deftly mastered their power to open the gates wide.
“Off with you! You are needed no more in this house
Of misery. I am your lord. You obey me,”
My master said as the fiends retreated all-out.
Beyond the gate thousands of treadmills floated on a sea
Of coffee–black, with extra caffeine–where the insane
Ran like sprinters in a race where no finish could be seen.
Long tubes ascended to each suit who craved shallow gain,
Their thought-less, oblivious, rote steps powered pumps
That forced the dark serum directly into their jugular veins.
After this scene we passed through a bureaucratic dump,
Strewn with manuals, videos and meaningless reports,
Until we came face to face with a technocratic chump.
His hands were clipboards and his voice was hoarse,
“These calculations are wrong! I need more data!” he yelled,
While his pencil nose scribbled on with irrelevant force.
Farther down tolled hundreds of iron bells,
Clanging out business babble in hollow halls:
“Team-player, corporate culture, maximum potential.”
In these swinging bells, upside down like iron dolls,
Hung business gurus and motivational speakers
Whose heads, not their mouths, bellowed this endless folderol.
Next, a deep crevice erupted with disturbing shrieks.
“This place goes no deeper than this,” my master said.
“We must descend into it to find what we seek.”
I could not protest before my sage master sped
In dragging me with him. We fell a thousand feet,
Wind screeching in our ears, into this bleak valley of dread.
Through this cruel ravine swiftly coursed a river deep,
With rapids formed by boulders that had edges sharp as knives
And water so cold that ice chunks grew to enormous size.
In this cauldron thousands swam against the current,
But progress made was negated by slashes from the rocks,
Collisions with the ice and their own energy now spent.
“These are CEO’s who gave employees hemlock
By restructuring and downsizing for progress’s sake,
And union leaders who for gain created deadlock,
Killing companies and livelihoods with handshakes
And clichés. The rest are workers who moved up,
But forgot their roots dictating daily headaches
On their former colleagues.” My master raised a cup
To toast this loathsome, ghastly scene and said,
“Don’t dismay. It’s just ‘Situation Normal: All Fucked Up.'”
“Leave on this river upon harried heads and chunks of ice,”
he instructed, “to purgatory tower where personnel
Redeem themselves through leisure and sacrifice.”
With gratitude I embraced Orwell(my mind still blurred
By what I’d seen), then quickly leaped from head to head,
In a sprint to leave this domain of constant stir.
Up the river I bounded, on ice and upon the dead,
Until I found myself on a concrete shore below the tower
Wherein penance and repentance erase employees’ dread.
But here, for now, this tale of woe must end,
Until my second master, a brave new man,
Helps me, the next department, to comprehend.