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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 10, Number 4, December 2016

Jeffrey Woodward
Detroit, Michigan, USA

The Late Afternoon of Basil O

a number 2
soft-lead pencil
national school
bus yellow

the paper punch
and tinny stapler
near at hand
stodgily gray but as suave
as the business suit, the day

found at
the bottom
of a box
the end of a long
paperclip chain

Frosted glass on the wooden door entrance, the name Basil O (the concluding block letters worn away) forms a partial arch with a title, "Certified Accountant," for a clear foundation. Read that backward inscription then from the cloistered interior of the office or, if so disposed, right the whole by turning away to face the mirror on the opposite wall.

To the left, a standard nondescript desk and tools of the numbers trade, an oblong window behind (a view of an adjacent third story brownstone walkup and our window’s double—who can surmise what they do over there?) and a pair of simple chairs for the clientele before. To the right, twin filing cabinets, antiquated water cooler and one coat-rack minus coat or hat . . .

one hundred
round head
brass brads
to the box –
size, number 5

buried under
a dusty stack
of confidential files
the calculator
that adds up to nothing

. . . or one coat-rack minus coat and hat. The severe angle of the light of day on the wall to your right, the clock that says and the clock that said long ago a quarter to five now partially cloaked in shadow, the vacancy of the scene is palpable in the faint warmth of the sun on the back of the hand that opens, that closes a door.

the volume on
the office phone
listen closely
and it may ring

Editor's Note: First published in Modern English Tanka V2, N4, Summer 2008.



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