at the social security office

there’s a greeter at the door
she must be full
of knowledge
to be able to direct all enquiries
to the right places
but
when I stepped too close
she looked instantly scared

backed away from me
as though I was a threat
in the process
of materialization

in the voice that they use
the one that conveys
to you that the presence
of pimples
on the face
is an unbearable discomfort
she seeks my details

I’ve forgotten to bring
my numbers
so
it has to be
the hard way

then

sit over there

the headmistress

the wayward pupil

a vast open-plan
computer desk
two screens
chair
times thirty

but I am not to look

every chair
a sickly green
is in an arc
pointed across empty space
towards the window

and the street

no spying on the workers
is allowed
no hint of agitation
irritation
even irony
might be subversive
and extract a punishment

how would you like
a six week hiccup
to kiss your dole cheque?

and finally
my name
is called

and a complexity
of routine
and unspeakable boredom
is initiated

if I didn’t know better
I would swear
this clerk was moving
mountains
for me
but in truth
the system is just
s
l
o
w
and she doesn’t care much
but there is a time allocated
for enquiries of my kind

it must be filled
without eye contact
it must be filled
with the authority
of government
and the law

did I mention the chairs
are the colour
of colic

and the authority here
is moved by knowledge
of injustice justified
as routine
with an overlay
of the fear
of self-awareness


© Frank Prem, 2017

Poem #25: don’t mind the toll

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8 thoughts on “at the social security office

  1. I haven’t been to Centerlink since our first child was born and they wanted paperwork for FTB but it was the most enjoyable experience I have ever had in one of their offices and I put it all down to wearing my KISS tour shirt because the girl at the computer and I spent more time talking about KISS than anything else. Next time you’re going buy a KISS shirt 🙂

    I used to train staff in two regional offices back when they were called DSS, (in the 90s), all those counter staff who looked like they didn’t want to be there filling out endless streams of crap for every customer had good reason to be like that, it’s exactly how I looked when I turned up every morning to train them in the latest software that didn’t work properly 🙂

    Like

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