Level Entries

Casual Fridays I’m promoted to a ghost desk
to type in
figures in computer grids.

Required fields. Expenses.
Hewlett Packard.
Hellwit Packet.

To hell with slim pickings,
pack it in son, you backpack
It’s not the heat
it’s the stupidity.

Leavings, really,
no better than condiments,
and only when I can get away with it—
sometimes the story of
the missing gun, or bruised Lucille,
or the president recuperating
somewhere. I’ve only seen him
in his oil portrait in his office
with, I’m serious, mounted animal heads.

The portrait glowers, I think, or the painter
tried hard to make the president glower—
he was shot.
It was an accident, hunting upstate.

His daughter tells me,
showing his office, his portrait
when I first come here,
and I come back when I can
to look at the taxidermy
my lunch half-hours, with the adjusters
out to lunch, their long lunch,
at Knockers or Headlights
or wherever they go.

For lunch, I eat cake,
and I know Marie A. never said that
but somehow words get made
someplace else and wind up
in our mouths, and here it’s Taruga
rum cake, Cayman Islands,

and I eat usually alone, among
the kitchen’s not-quite Mondrian cabinets.

The girl from Tottenville,
a Virgo, eats at her desk.
She’s on a diet, she doesn’t
know if Rob’s the one or
Lou, she says you drink too
much coffee, Matthew,
bad for your arteries,
and the other receptionist,
Lucille I think, who
might have a shiner, her
makeup’s been heavy the whole week,
gets her brown bag from the fridge
and asks me what you writing and I say
Poetry and she shakes her head
and says I think that cake’s nasty.


I’m a messenger to the adjusters.
I’m in college.

Not quite adjusters, actually—they’re investigators.

They dispatch me to the North Tower
once, my only voyage, to hand
a paralegal insurance-claim Polaroids…

I think that’s it—I’ve been finding
Polaroids in the copier:
a crushed Bronco,
some nudists, a burnt house,

and once I found
something real, or close to it,
in the lowest cubby of a ghost desk:
a revolver’s satiny case,

I’m writing nothing in the salt and pepper book
except Wall Street sucks! I hate everything,
except it’s not really Wall Street.
I’ve found the holster,
something you can’t
really build a drama on.
If I told you I found the gun
you wouldn’t believe me.


No news, good news to deliver.
The city like Tetris, build and clear,
the lines fasten too soon.
The office? Depopulated.
Some boom-time’s over,

that’s what I mean by
ghost desks, and like other stations
traces of commuters
turn up—
ketchup and pepper/salt
packets, a Lucite cube whose
sides show a wedding,
a birthday, a couple on a cliff,
and the last or the first side
contains no image.
I look for more pictures,
I mean the damage claim ones,
the ill-cropped and fragmentary
so homely and undesperate
you might as well call them art.

Michael Tyrell is the author of the poetry collection The Wanted and has published poems in many magazines, including recent issues of Fogged Clarity, The New Republic, and The Iowa Review. With Julia Spicher Kasdorf, he edited the anthology Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn.