The Strand Shelving Shift

And I’m still half asleep as the morning bell sounds.
I shower, shave, and make coffee.
Forty-five minutes on the train to Union Square,
where there are too many people sleeping on the ground.

I take myself inside and the store’s still in shadows–
And I’m going down stairs masked from the bit of daylight trickling in,
and my feet move me forward with only their muscle memory.

I punch my time card and gather with the others by the registers–
“Go shelve in the basement,” they say.
“Start with music and dance”
where I know there are oversized books
that mostly won’t fit and will never be sold.
I put them up briskly
to match the breeze from outside
coming through cracks in the ceiling.
I shelve and I shelve and I alphabetize.
And the stench of raw sewage surrounds me.
Management insists that it’s safe to be down there
but I don’t believe them.
Even they know they’re lying.

I’m then told to pull paper for the off-sites.
One in Times Square,
one in Soho,
one in Central Park,
and one in Club Monoco…
Don’t ask me why.
But each will need paperbacks that might sell.
Most are stolen, and by employees as well.
I never did,
And I never would.
Though I certainly could’ve.

A three hour morning,
then I take my fifteen.
I drag down a cigarette.
Strand is open now
And already bustling.

The afternoon comes and I’m at info ’til four
when I can leave and go…
Anywhere at all.
But I go home to read
And hang out with my person.
And hum past some hours ’til sleep.
I work again tomorrow, but I close.

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