“. . . civilization obtains mastery over the individual’s dangerous desire . . . by setting up an agency within him to watch over it. . . .”

— Sigmund Freud

It’s the square government
building knocked together
by the low bidder,
the carpeted lobby, in khaki,
and a few stone urns,
their throats stopped with sand,
snuffed cigarettes and gum wrappers.

It’s always 9 or 3 o’clock,
the right angles of the day,
too late to be early
or too early to think
about going home
to sit at the west window
of your apartment near the river,
a cold beer, dusk
on the boulevard,
the evening traffic and the last barges
mingling their lights,
No, you can’t think of that this early,
you’11 go crazy.

The file cabinets are jammed,
drawers like messy nests
of trash birds, grackles and starlings,
everything saved, everything in duplicate
that no one will ever want.

Please, no eating at your desks.
The bureau chief hates the office
to smell of hot mustard or chili,
the cozy musk of popcorn
encourages gabbing
and the gyros from the Greek place
have embarrassed three reports
with permanent stains of grease.

No loud talking or laughing.
The agents’ memos must be filed
by late morning and again early evening.
In the yawning of the afternoon,
you might walk to the window,
which is sealed to control
everyone’s comfort.

You might look out
if you promise not to notice
the couple in the little park,
under the big hands of the sycamore,
the red of her skirt, his open collar.