It is a confident title for a book of poems, but The Business put me off at first.  Why would I read poetry if not to get my mind off the stress of business?

Stephanie Lenox explains that the idea came from her co-office-worker Carla, who whispered, “You’re a writer, right? You should write about this. ”

“Working in an office,” she admits, “is not particularly poetic. But I wrote this book because I wanted to address that part of our lives that few poems touch. I believe that poetry can be a way to celebrate and mourn the hours of our lives we give, out of necessity, to others in order to survive.”

Agro-business is also represented.  The title poem goes right down to the farm, where my own work life began.

The tractor in the field

does not take things personally.

It is not affronted by the way

wheat bends before it, all that luscious


There is no mind, just a motor,

a servitude of parts churning

politely together.  The oily smoke

is only smoke, no more.

I still think my uncle’s old combine hated me.  But the writing feels needed, like knocking off for a mid-morning break.

The farm is hard on the body and easy on the spirit.  The office, for me, is just the opposite.  Nice people, benefits, a comfy chair – why should it be such an uneasy bargain?  The Business gets down into that question, concisely, dryly, sometimes politely.  “Aubade for the Next Week” exhales this anxious morning music:

The day’s corridor is full of nameplates                         and doorways,

institutions that act as though they

could survive

without us.  We pick and choose

what we are willing to sell and dress


Meanwhile phones ring, keys are


in their locks.  We fall in love with


that brush away minutes like flies.

So then, is the glass half full or half empty?  The poet puts this conundrum into motion.

The bowl

tends toward emptiness.

You have responsibilities.

You must prove yourself.

Will you fill it?

If the paint on a new pencil were unrolled, it would just about cover a slim page-long poem, “The Pencil.”  Its nub is a reminder of something often forgotten – how writing begins.

with it the child

traces & erases

one stiff hesitant

letter then the next

Whether you trade your labor indoors or out, at home or away, these poems are well worth

having in your pocket.

Stephanie Lenox wrote The Business entirely on paper pilfered from her day job.  She is the author of two other volumes of poetry, Congress of Strange People and The Heart That Lies Outside the Body.  Her books are available at the Salem Public Library or through her website,

Vere McCarty is an everyday writer living in Silverton.

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