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poetry HR Explains Your Severance Package

On this Labor Day weekend of grievous unemployment, poet Carrie Shipers shines a touch of irony on business-as-usual.

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HR Explains Your Severance Package

By Carrie Shipers

We apologize for the slow shipping,

any damage caused by damp or careless

handling.  Don’t assume because

the box is stamped Fourth Class

that’s what we think of you.  To make sure

you stay well once your insurance stops,

we’ve included vitamins, a first-aid kit

with extra gauze, some drugs

we bought online but were afraid

to take.  We worried alcohol would be

a bad idea, so for comfort we knitted

an afghan to cozy up the suits you’ll wear

around the house while you rethink

the color of your parachute, how full

your bucket is.  The fountain pen’s

left over from last year’s awards. 

We didn’t want Congratulations to seem

like a taunt, so we used a paperclip

to scrape off what we could.  We really hope

the bank won’t take your car, especially

during daylight with the neighbors

watching.  But just in case, here’s

a bus pass so you won’t be trapped,

a Starbucks card for lattes while you fail

to finish your screenplay.  We’ve also

packed the rest of your office:

gum, playing cards, photos predating

your divorce.  Although we were too late

to stop the looting of your action figures

and stash of La Croix, we did

reclaim the antique paperknife

your grandfather used, but the blade’s

so sharp we’re holding it for now.

Because we know it hurt to be let go

so suddenly and on the eve of bonus season,

we hope you’ll accept this package

in the spirit that it’s meant.  It may not

be the cash you were expecting, but it’s better

than the nothing we were told to send.

Carrie Shipers’s poems have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, New England Review, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, and other journals.  She is the author of Ordinary Mourning (ABZ, 2010), Cause for Concern (Able Muse, 2015), Family Resemblances (University of New Mexico, 2016), and Grief Land (University of New Mexico, 2020).