“All my Ex-Employees are Crazy” by Joel Robert Ferguson

The polar bears are circling us, the John Cage
Christmas mix, the hors d’oeuvres and those bodies that serve
them. adjacent, a seal
keeps practising the same underwater back-flip
off the glass we’re standing under, and my partner’s supervisor
bossplains to me Montreal’s culinary scene. Don’t know,
don’t care. Does McDonalds count? Slurried
bovine product filled the gaps, bud. Next year
the cooking school, last year the Human Rights Museum, fill up
on the big boss’s quarter come holidays,
best foot into livelihood kabuki, scrapbook
smiles with the millionaire’s company credit card
(cheaper than paying the market wage).
The grand gesture gets us tipsy, but careful to not, say,
get too far gone. Whatever you say
say nothing about unions, pensions,
coworkers dropped like buggy potatoes.
Say karaoke like a Minnesotan.
Clap as the bossman and wife butcher “Paradise
by the Dashboard Light,” like, moreso. Look back
at all those gone in a couple years’ time,
their names now being mud. “All
my ex-employees are crazy” reads out
above the exit. Another turn under the bus.
Bodies gone now, but voices linger, serenading
caged animals with Disney songs and Johnny Cash.


Joel Robert Ferguson is a Canadian poet of working-class settler origins. Raised in the Nova Scotian village of Bible Hill, he now lives in Winnipeg, Treaty One Territory, where he is a PhD student at the University of Manitoba. His poetry has recently appeared in The Columbia Review, EVENT, The Quarantine Review, Queen’s Quarterly, and Riddle Fence, and his debut collection, The Lost Cafeteria (Signature Editions, 2020), was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award.

Photo by Michael Discenza on Unsplash