cube life

On her dead sister’s birthday
she is distracted by the foghorn tasks
of a new job and forgets
they would have been the same age
for the next two weeks.
She is one-half an Irish twin.

Unthinking she waves good morning to sales
on her way to get coffee.
Salesmen peer over the partial walls
of their cubes like prairie dogs.
Research interrupts her with a full mug
to discuss emphatically a project they’re working on.
Support shows her (again) how to approve
an order into the system.
Outside is panting, the height of a sticky summer.
Inside the AC chugs on high, pickling the Berber-y air.

She returns to her cube,
in an over AC’d corner of the building,
completely disremembering her sister,
the imperative of her freckles, velvet-painting
hair, patina in her eyes, Bing-red lips.

She is exposed on all sides, senses
at the back of her neck cool cherry breath,
thinks it’s a prank on the new girl.
Swiveling in her desk chair, she finds herself
accordion-fold alone, staring down a mottled stretch of carpet,
keys echoing their tip-tapping.

Her prompted body shivers,
and her too-naked  l i p s part.
Her sister crowds her cube.
She hears her insist: You forgot
to wear lipstick, arching her brow
in that high drama way.

© Tori Grant Welhouse