Yes or No by Mónica de la Torre

Poetry, Prose




These pieces are excerpted from Mónica de la Torre’s forthcoming book The Happy End/All Welcome (Ugly Ducking Presse). The book can be preordered here.


Yes or No


A dead office is overhead.



A living office is an organism.



Yes or No


Early open-plan offices are called office landscapes



The landscape’s design appears chaotic,

emulating Italian baroque gardens.


Furniture in office landscapes is placed at odd angles.


Plants and a few partitions divides personnel

according to genera and work flow.


Entrepreneurs contemplate the landscape.


Partitions need less maintenance than plants.



Yes or No


So that personnel can move around and up and down

and function as vertical machines,

office landscapes are sectioned into action offices.


It is suboptimal to give vertical machines space to move

around and up and down.


Flexible offices are not cost-effective.


Furniture in action offices is placed orthogonally.


Plants are replaced by partitions on three sides.


Action offices become cubicles.


Action offices become dead offices.


Plants enliven offices in pictures.


Living offices are safe environments for plants.



Yes or No


Dead offices attract those for whom work is unnatural

compared to play or rest.

Living offices attract those for whom work is as natural

as play or rest.


Individuals in dead offices are workers.


Individuals in living offices are human performers.


Workers work for higher-ups.


Human performers work to satisfy their higher-level egos.


“Bees are not natural and that is natural enough.”



Yes or No


If unchecked, workers dillydally to slow down operations.


When workers have unexpected collisions

in hallways or restrooms,

they tend to linger and disturb others.


When human performers have unexpected collisions

in previously designated areas, they have

serendipitous encounters leading to collaborations.


When workers talk about the weather

or compliment each other’s clothing,

they are dawdling.


When human performers talk about the weather

or compliment each other’s clothing,

they are being creative.



Yes or No 


In action offices, vertical machines

(also known as knowledge workers)

confer, negotiate, plan, direct, read, take notes, write,

draw, trace blue-prints, calculate, dictate, telephone,

punch cards, type, multigraph, record,

and check at freestanding units.

Workers whose tasks demand that they hardly get up

from their freestanding units

are also known as slouching machines.


In living offices, human performers

(also known as members of the creative class)

chat, converse, co-create, divide and conquer, huddle,

show and tell, warm up and cool down, process

and respond, contemplate, and create at workstations

and work points.


Those who receive no compensation for tasks

that include plan, read, take notes, write, draw, calculate,

telephone, type, chat, converse, co-create, huddle, show

and tell, warm up and cool down, process and respond,

contemplate, and create are known as the unemployed.


Yes or No


In living offices work points include jump spaces.


Jump spaces are not landings.


Landings are perch spots adjacent to meeting spaces

and forums where human performers can interact.

Neither workers nor the unemployed perch in jump spaces.


Neither workers nor the unemployed can tweet at perch spots.


Neither workers nor the unemployed jump in landings.


The unemployed can perch, tweet, and jump wherever they please.



Yes or No


Repositionable furniture belongs in forums.


Open discussions occurring at forums are focused.


Open unfocused discussions may or may not take place in plazas.


Plazas are welcoming public spaces at highly trafficked areas

of the work environment.


Parking lots are not plazas.


Elevators are not plazas.


Restrooms are not plazas.


Water-cooler areas are plazas.


Plazas have amenities as points of attraction.


Plazas invite individuals to mix, mingle, and shop.


When human performers shop, they are engaged in a recreational

community-building activity.


Shopping is productive.


Overproduction is not productive.



Mónica de la Torre is the author of six books of poetry, including the forthcoming The Happy End/All Welcome (Ugly Duckling Presse) and Feliz año nuevo, a volume of selected poetry translated into Spanish by Cristián Gómez (Luces de Gálibo) forthcoming in the spring of 2017. Born and raised in Mexico City, she writes about art and is a contributing editor to BOMB Magazine. Recent and upcoming publications include Triple CanopyHarper’sPoetry, The White Review, The Animated Reader (The New Museum), Erizo, the New Yorker, and huun: arte / pensamiento desde México. She teaches in the Literary Arts program at Brown University.