Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Phenomenon of the Business-Conference

As far as I know, I've never been to a business-conference, to which people who are in the same kind of business (a macro-example might be "sales"; micro-examples might be hand-tools, cosmetics, or sporting goods) fly or drive. They stay in a big hotel, and they put up exhibits and share information, or so I gather. Then there's the kind of conference that's focused on training: how to do your business better. People talk, and you listen, or you talk, and people listen to you. Everybody gets trained, and then they go home.

When I worked as an editor for auditors, I did go to a few training-seminars, so I got a feeling for what they are like. And I've been to numerous academic conferences, which in one sense have to be radically different from business-conferences because they're composed of academics, after all, but in another sense must be about the same. Hotels must see all conference-participants as the same, although academics probably talk more and tip less well, on average.

So anyway, I had to use my imagination when I wrote the following poem about a business-conference. Imagine that--having to use one's imagination in a poem! What next?! Whether you're an academic, a business-person, a tourist, a hotel-worker, or a spy, all hotels are pretty much the same now, so that part was easy.

Business-Conference

In this high steel hotel, gray regulated
air commutes through air-ducts ceaselessly.
Whole rivers course inside
labyrinths of plumbing. Lexicons
are digitized, then sluiced through
copper, into sky to satellites and back to
ground, riding bands of width or widths
of band.
We, the most expensive people

in history, sit up and stare at screens,
lie down to sleep in low-conditioned
exhalations of manufactured wind. We
are talked to, and we talk to. After training,
we are unable or unwilling to sleep. We rise
again to stare at opposing steel and other glass.
From this angle, inhabitants of City
seem at least secondary to all
engines and motors, which constitute
City, its energy and purpose. We
act out dramas of math and tools. The

hotel is satisfactory. It is a promontory
overlooking advancements in technology.
We are engine-tenders and data-shepherds.
We have registered for the conference. We
are minding our business. We are keeping
track of our expenses. We are meaning business.


2007 Copyright Hans Ostrom

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