Renovating Building 112

Workmen are remodeling our office.
     They gather by the dozen
          to eat breakfast – sock caps low
over foreheads, face masks slung
     around necks. One tells a joke
          I can’t hear, and their laughter
rumbles over plastic chairs, cash registers,
     condiments, the salad bar.
          From my corner booth I can see
cranes that tower over evergreens
          marked with bright pink ribbons
               for the chainsaw. I look back
and they’re gone – nothing left
     but napkins stacked neatly
          on the center of the table.

I wrote this poem almost exactly four years ago, when I frequently stopped for coffee or breakfast in a Microsoft building between my bus stop and my own building. My product group has moved to another satellite campus since then, but I was back in Building 112 this morning for a meeting and overheard a team of corporate movers swapping stories about their accident-prone supervisor. I finished my coffee, looked up, and they were gone. I immediately thought of this poem.

I owe the poem’s current form and other improvements to feedback from David Wagoner while he was the Poet in Residence at Richard Hugo House.