morning shift

    At four a.m. the last thing you think about
    is love. You have two or three hours before
    the sun drags you into its sweaty bearhug,
    but you're getting a head start on the strain.
    Self-inflicted violence with a toothbrush
    knocks some sense into you. Yesterday's coffee
    straight from the pot, is sour and greasy,
    exactly what you deserve. The shower is less kind,
    strips the numbness from your body so you feel
    the cold more deeply. Means you are alive.
    Means the crisp shiver of cotton on damp skin,
    pores flaring and hair slicked back, is almost comfort.

    Still pitch dark at 5 a.m. Across the street,
    all the corridor lights are switched on
    but no one's there to use them. Your footsteps
    echo in the hollow air as if they matter.
    The lift pushes itself to life and up, fluorescent
    and gaping for work. For twenty seconds
    the world could end and you'd be the last
    to find out. At least you're not to blame.
    When you're let out on the empty street, at least there's
    destination to your practiced gait, outstretched hand,
    taxi to curbside in a wash of gravel,
    breath and power enough to start the day.

29 August 2001   13:33 hours
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