Contractor Blues

I can stroll through their muted neutral corridors

be conveyed between floors and

worlds of ethereal architecture

by the loftiest escalators

I can shit in their toilets

and park under pines

near the front entrance

I can discuss the events of my weekends with teammates

congenial and dull

stand in long lines

during personal pizza luncheons in the cafeteria

be proffered pens and tchotchkes

bearing pharmaceutical logos

 

But they won’t pay me their wages

won’t include me in their sick time

and paid holidays

and accrued vacation time

and medical, dental, vision, prescription, 401(k) and life insurance plans

They won’t even include me in their on-site gym

so I can try to undo the deleterious

effects of all this sitting,

this mysterious “word smithing” they demand of me

40-plus hours a week

 

My badge is the wrong color

it has a pale blue stripe

doesn’t bear the royal purple

 

My badge has the wrong word

announces my pariah status

from several feet away

with block cap letters

emblazoned beneath my photo

 

 

C-O-N-T-R-A-C-T-O-R,

not

E-M-P-L-O-Y-E-E

 

 

And yet I’m just as much the worker bee

trying to stay afloat in this

molasses-thick sea

atrophying economy

global injustice for you and me

doesn’t matter—my academic pedigree

doesn’t render me immune

from expendability

 

My badge is purple, not blue

 

What’s a poor

Edgar Allan Poe-quoting

library-book toting

former teacher-turned-office drone

to do?

 

And how’s the new job working out for you?

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