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Featured poet Susanne Bostick Allen, three poems

Schedule-at-a-glance Government Ethics Conference September 13-15, 2011

Orlando World Center Marriott

“I Didn’t Even Know That an Ethics Situation Was There.” The Ethics of RIFs: Dealing With

Ethical Issues Generated by the 112th Congress’ “Right Sizing” of the Federal Government

Don’t Get Caught in Congressional Crosshairs: What You Need to Know About the Legislative

Process and How OGE Can Help. Ethics by a Different Name: Winning the Hearts and Minds

of Your Fellow Employees With Effective Communication. Advising the Ethically-Challenged

System. The Yellow Brick Road to E-Filing. How Free Speech Intersects with Whistleblowing

Accepting Responsibility Responsibly: Preparing for and Responding to Organizational Crises.

What is “Market Value” and Why Do We Care? Ethics Training Sans Power Point. How to

Timely Identify New Entrance Confidential Filers? Apps and MAX and the CLOUD! Oh My!

Back to the Basics. How Alternative Pay Systems Impact Financial Disclosure. Capturing the

Criminals But Maybe Not the Reward Money: What To Do When Your Federal Employee

Helps Catch the Bad Guys and Is Offered A Reward That Implicates 18 U.S.C. 209. The

Complete History of Executive Branch Ethics: 1789-Present (Abridged) Ethics at 1600

Pennsylvania Avenue.

Agency Incapacity

In the near future, the Agency may be subject to Service Interruption Adjustments. This is not

desirable for the Agency. When Service Interruption Adjustments occur, Visitor Management

will be directed to issue credits to customers whose service was interrupted for at least 24 hours

due to the Agency’s error or an Act of God.

Customers will proceed through the front door, ignoring the Access Control desk, and will refuse

to sign in or provide their names, ranks, and Social Security numbers. Because of the Service

Interruption, the Intrusion Detection System will not function. Customers will employ the

elevator, ascend to the thirty-second floor, and inundate our Customer Service Representatives

with their requirements. We will be tasked with fulfilling all requests for Service Interruption

Adjustments and will be unable to comply with the Secretary’s new Backlog Elimination


Not Singing

I dropped the report on the floor. I dropped the report on the floor on purpose. I was sick of the

report. I never wanted to see the report again. I had spent hours on the report, and the Director

told me I was too slow. I was too slow because I made too many changes. I made the changes

because the report was badly written. It was badly written because the people who wrote it

were auditors, not writers. They were auditors and they barely knew how to write an English

sentence. They barely knew how to write because they only cared about numbers. Because

they only cared about numbers, they hired editors to make their reports sound good. But when

they hired me, they didn’t know what they were getting. They didn’t know what they were

getting because they didn’t know what I wanted to do. I wanted to make the reports sound good.

I wanted to make them beautiful. I wanted to make them sing. But the reports didn’t sing.

Their only voice was passive. They were clunky and ugly as an overstuffed chair. So I edited

and re-edited and rewrote the reports, and the auditors didn’t like it because I took too long. No

matter how many times I rewrote the reports, I couldn’t make them sing.

Editor's note: To preserve Susanne's line breaks, these prose poems were published in a smaller variant font.


Susanne Bostick Allen's poetry has been published in The Broadkill Review, Word Wrights!, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and Stitch N Sew Quilts. Highway 78, a chapbook of her poems, was published by the Broadkill Press in 2014. She recently earned her M.A. in Art and the Book from the Corcoran School of Arts and Design, The George Washington University. She is a musician and singer and has performed in opera, community theater, and symphonic choruses. She lives in Washington, DC.


"Years ago, a writing teacher said my themes were alienation and conformity. I watch urban dwellers avoid each other on city streets and see women struggle with their weight so they can look like everyone else. I satirize the foibles and absurdity of government shenanigans. I pay tribute to the women poets who came before me, and I never forget my rural Alabama origins. Language is music to me, and I exploit its possibilities with unexpected confluences. I never stop observing the profoundness of the ordinary world around us." --Susanne Bostick Allen

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