Volume 29, Number 4


The chief elf in his coat
And starched tie rocks back as best
He can in his leather chair,
Listening. Executives listen.
Twenty years he worked the line,
Moved to indoor sales, worked that
Yet more dreary years—how long
Do elves live anyway?—
Moved into accounting after
A correspondence-school degree,
And began to think full-sized thoughts.
In his chair he has a dictionary
And an encyclopedia volume
To hoist him high enough to be seen
Over his dark wood desk. Getting
Out of that chair is a two-part
Process—first, down from the books
To the chair ledge, then off the ledge,
Then standing. He moves quickly,
Does not like to be watched in his dismount.
All elf affairs go now through him,
An advocate for both his fellow elves
And the company, the example
Of how high you can go
If you keep your nose clean,
If you follow the path.
A place can be made at any table
For anyone.
I don’t think his brethren elves
Much like him. They think in his gratitude
He favors the company side too much,
Identifies with the taller management,
Must have kissed a few rear-ends
To rank the middle office with
A window. Or they think it luck:
The company needed a tolerable token.
I’ve seen him play golf—shortened
Clubs and a swing that is all muscle,
No timing. He runs along after his ball
Like a small house dog let out
And fixed on playing the repetitive
Game the lady of the house thinks
The dog wants to play. I think
He knows what he is doing. I think
He has a plan in all this, and
At some point neither his cousin elves
Nor the company to him matters; and, just
What he is sure he wants, he is coming
To terms with, adding against
Effort and affiliation: value, alone,
In its meanest form. He is,
After all, an elf.

—Ken Poyner