White Noise (1998)

Performed at the 1998 Slam Nationals to a standing ovation, quoted on CNN & mentioned in the Wall Street Journal

I wrote this poem about the corporation I was working for. At the time I thought I was exaggerating, but later found out my imagination which came out of boredom had more truth in it than not. In fact, shortly after I wrote this poem the building, which employed about 3,000 people, did not pass health inspection codes. Air ducts, which were supposed to be maintained annually hadn’t been cleaned in over 10 years. Employees were coming down with strange rashes and frequent illnesses. The term “sick building syndrome” was buzzing around at that time. I share this because I believe when we speak our truth we put the energy for transformation out into the world. Our thoughts, our voices, our words are that powerful. I performed this poem at the Slam Nationals and not only received a standing ovation, but was quoted on CNN and mentioned in the Wall Street Journal. Point being, I do not discount the intelligence inside of boredom and depression. There is always an opportunity to be creative.

I work in a corporation
in a cubicle among a sea of cubicles,
like a barnacle I sit in the same spot everyday
among the other barnacles who are my friends.
We drink coffee to keep from falling asleep,
to keep from being hypnotized, lobotomized
by the white noise that dro-o-o-o-o-nes in our ears
all day long like thi-i-i-i-i-is.
Sometimes I try to harmonize with it,
but I always get pulled back to the mother tone.
I go to bed and dream in white noise. I can’t shut it off.
It’s like having a bunch of techno monks chanting in my head.
“Hummmm drummmm commmmme be like us,”
the tone says as it lulls unsuspecting souls to be sacrificed to Moloch.
Many have already left their skins.
You can see it in their gray faces
that blend in with the gray carpeting and walls.
They make offerings to the vending machine gods,
feeding the parasites that have taken over their bodies,
that keep the skin alive.
I breathe in the gray recirculated air
that’s mixed with engine exhaust from the loading dock on the floor beneath me.
I breathe and become one with the fumes
which makes my boss happy
as I tend to have a more corporately positive attitude
when I’m high on carbon monoxide.
I go to the bathroom to look in the mirror to see if I’m dead yet,
but I’m not, so I go back to work.
Baaaaaaah… Baaaaaaah.
A herd of smokers shuffles into the nicotine chamber
to marinate their lungs in Marlboro sauce.
They close the oven door and bake and shake from the morning withdrawal.
The smoke crawls out along the floor
and splits into hundreds of second hand snakes
that suck up the remaining oxygen and set my sinus cavities on fire!
On the way to the cafeteria, I pass the gray suits in the gray hallway.
They nod hello, but then their eyes return back to my tits.
They’re just little balding baby boys who weren’t breast fed long enough
and I’m still an ornament, a prostitute
in the suit world for benefits and a 401K.
Behind them I see myself twenty years from now,
dyed blonde with dark roots that didn’t have time to get to the beauty shop,
stuffed into a pair of control tops,
the top button of my skirt undone
because I don’t want to buy anything new
until I lose ten more pounds.
My pace hurried, my face buried underneath
mounds of rejuvenating make-up,
my life held together by a fake string of pearls
that just broke and lay spilled out all over the floor.
I get down on my hands and knees to help her
even though she says I don’t have to.
She doesn’t know it was the best part of my day.
She just gets up and walks anonymously away.

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