Martin Elster

Mr. Work

Work phones up. “Come in on Saturday,”
he roars, a voice as chill as permafrost,
making me shudder. A hideous hyena,
he could have wrestled bears in Rome’s arena;
instead, he brawls with fiscal gain and cost.
His gray skin suits him and his suit is gray

as battleships. Cash always in his pocket,
a schedule in his hand, he’s bulletproof.
“I’m sorry, boss. I’m busy. Can’t come in.”
I see his hairless head and tufted chin,
then see myself pink-slipped. Defy him? Poof!—
I’d pass from sight as quick as a SpaceX rocket.

“Ms. Lady Holiday has called,” I say,
“keen to hang out together at the beach.
No way I would say no to such a siren!
You’re tiring, Mr. Work. Your work is tiring.
Your leech-like spirit makes my spirit bleach,
so if your aim is firing me, you may.”

I’m at the shore now with that lovely lady
and, though I’m penniless, what fun we’re having
swimming, sauntering through the surf, her fingers
entwining mine like a jellyfish’s stingers
of naughty poison, Mr. Work still raving
behind his icy eyes, while here it’s eighty. 

The sun, the showpiece of the western sky,
is big as the boss’s ego, flushed, and heavy.
A figure looms, its skull like burnished copper.
Ms. Holiday takes flight. I cannot stop her.
He drags me by my collar to his Chevy.
I strangulate him with his power tie ...

(While Work scrubs pots and plates from noon till noon,
I lounge beneath the palms from June till June.)

Martin Elster, who never misses a beat, was for many years a percussionist with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. He finds contentment in long woodland walks and writing poetry, often alluding to the creatures and plants he encounters. A full-length collection, Celestial Euphony, was published by Plum White Press in 2019.