“In Preparation for a Visit from Our CEO” by Carrie Shipers

Carrie Shipers


Because this isn’t a formal visit, he prefers
to let the day unfold without a schedule.
Please memorize the attached draft,
make each event spontaneous and fun.
His tour will avoid all areas with leaks,
the second floor unless that smell recedes.
Make sure your desks are neat but not
overly so—perhaps a legal pad and a few
files, a printout flagged with sticky notes.
When introduced, please include
your job title, commitment to the mission
posted in the restrooms for review.

We’d planned a catered lunch but learned
the CEO loves potlucks. Avoid carbs
and condensed soup in covered dishes.
All desserts should look homemade.
When he puts down his fork, discard
your plates and pull your seats into a circle.
If he refers to challenges, uses terms
like shift or swerve, don’t let your faces
show alarm. He’s already said
that he can’t answer process questions,
and we don’t want our guest to feel
uncomfortable. After he departs,
we’ll reconvene to dissect his remarks.

We can’t overstress how vital this
occasion is. It’s rumored there are big
cuts coming, that our office is at risk.
We need to show the CEO why he
should overlook our recent losses,
products we failed to launch on time.
If he enjoys his visit, finds us not only
competent but also warm and kind,
he might decide to fire someone else.

from Rattle #63, Spring 2019
Tribute to Persona Poems


Carrie Shipers : “Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the so-called ‘corporate’ poems I’ve been writing in the past few years are drawn from my experiences in academia. In this piece, I wanted very much to capture the voice of those responsible for planning the CEO’s visit—how even their most obnoxious instructions are actually inspired by good intentions and desperation: if they plan everything exactly right, and also if they can get the ‘you’ to cooperate for the day, then perhaps—perhaps—they can save everyone’s jobs. (For the record, the potluck, the refusal to answer process questions, and the mission statements in the restroom are all true. The happy ending is that I now work elsewhere.)” (web)

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