The Service Files: on receiving a questionnaire from the Credit Union

Someone in Nebraska wants to know
the Teller’s race
who served us in the lobby one
mild day in December when Phoenix
was warmer by thirty degrees
than Omaha.
Did he wear glasses?
How long was his hair and what color?
Did he apologize
for the time we stood in line? There’s snow
flaking down by the window
where that someone
looks out between checking
on whether he smiled, and if not
did he give an excuse? Was he neatly
attired for a climate that requires
no sweaters. Was his shirt disconcertingly bright?
It’s cozy in the office,
turning over papers
and grading every answer on a scale
from one to ten. Did the employee make
eye contact? Did he stare to the point
of discomfort? Was it possible to tell
from his accent
where he had grown up? Nebraska perhaps?
Did he seem so happy
to live without winter
he overlooked some detail
during the transaction? Was he friendly; was he
focused; was he fast? What could we ever
suggest to improve the way he deals
with the daily flow of checks
and sliding cash beneath the thick glass
window? Such information
in Nebraska means evaluation, and
tabulation, while the files
are frozen
where the record is kept of whose hair
looked best today.

David Chorlton was born in Austria, grew up in Manchester, England, and lived in Vienna before moving to Phoenix in 1978. The Bitter Oleander Press published Shatter the Bell in my Ear, translations of poems by Austrian poet Christine Lavant. Reading T. S. Eliot to a Bird, is from Hoot ‘n Waddle, in Phoenix. Read other articles by David.