NOTES FROM THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT

NOTES FROM THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT
Douglas Richardson

1.
We sit silently at our stations waiting for work.
There is time to think.
There is time to listen for answers.
We fear what might happen
if we lose our jobs: insomnia, starvation,
the violence on the streets during these hours which,
for us, are hazy and placid.
The halls in our building are dark.
The lights turn off for lack of motion.
There is time to think.
There is time to listen for answers.
We hear the ticking of our watches,
the hum of the air vent.
We think, If death is like the graveyard shift,
that wouldn’t be so bad.
 
2.
Because you are human beings,
you expect vivid descriptions of the character quirks
of we who sit silently at our stations waiting for work.
We are reluctant to indulge you, however,
because we are skeptical of such descriptions.
We find they are mostly exaggerations and
are sometimes outright lies.
There is nothing phonier than a big personality.
There is nothing more demeaning
than a nickname.
Work with us for a month and you will
appreciate our position on this matter.
 
3.
There isn’t much difference
between night and day.
Both are lit by stars,
as any space traveler knows.
 
4.
Preparations for work begin just after sunset.
When the sky has darkened, we prepare our lunches
and then sit as still as possible
to conserve energy.
Listening to classical music is advised.
Reading is not.
You may be surprised to learn that few of us
think of ourselves as night owls and that
most of us are connoisseurs of sunrises,
rather than moon phases.
 
5.
Lunch hour is at 3 a.m.
We always take lunch in the lunchroom because
we are afraid to leave the building at this hour.
If we take a disagreeable bite,
we are free to spit it into the lunchroom sink
without fear of judgment or reprisal.
We are also free to genuflect and to pray out loud.
When lunch hour is over,
we wash our dishes in silence.
 
6.
On bad nights, we work like satellites,
like drifters in the dark periphery.
On bad nights, we know not to answer voices that ask,
Where is your girlfriend sleeping tonight?
It is better to occupy ourselves with Internet articles,
such as “Hubble Reveals Ghostly Ring of Dark Matter”
or “Mars Experiment Might Help Earthling Insomniacs.”
 
7.
We who sit silently at our stations waiting for work
understand immediately when one of our own is in trouble.
Just last week one of our security guards
began to obsess on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
The rest of us called a meeting in the halls,
which caused the lights to turn on,
which gave us an idea for an intervention.
We requested, and our security guard agreed to
three days of intensive light therapy without sleep.
We are happy to report that he now watches surf movies.
 
8.
When the final graveyard shift ended
and we all went under,
we were delighted to discover
more than silent slumber.
 
9.
We who sat silently at our stations waiting for work
see each other in daylight in the outside world.
We see each other at beaches
or on park benches in the sun.
We can be spotted all around the world.
A liquid presence surrounds us,
as if we are swimming.
Outsiders catch themselves staring at us.
A curious peace overcomes them.

©2012 This work is the property of the author.

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Posted on October 5, 2012, in Douglas Richardson, POETRY and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. By rights I should have published this poem by Douglas in the dead of night, but my time is not my own today and I’m unsure if I’ll be able to publish a second poem. Being a chronic night owl, I love his take on after-hours life..

    Read POEMS FOR LONERS, Douglas’s first poem on MM:
    https://misfitsmiscellany.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/poems-for-loners/

  2. An underground rocket of poem from Douglas Richardson with powerful identifying imagery making us feel we ourselves are in outer space or wanting to take( time )off .It reminded me of a 3 A.M. job of mine when I was a kid in an ice cream factory having to wear high boots among pop sickles and cream sickles wallowing in dirty city waters which I still wake up from daily nightmares. Yet with ease of a derivative chemical intelligence and sensitivity Douglas
    emerges like his readers unscathed to survive another graveyard shift. We have descended
    into a whirlpool of a Dantesque Hell, wanting any breath of purgatory, not expecting paradise
    from this insomniac olfactory of oppression, but we hear you Douglas and see the stars!

  3. Very mad, very good.

  4. Provides me with an intimate glimpse into the very private world of graveyard shift workers. Is it strange to say I felt uplifted when they took on the plight of their security guard and intervened, rather than letting life play out in front of them?

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