POEM | The Graveyard Shift

I’ve heard stories that
in 1500s England
they buried people prematurely
due to a comatose state caused
by drinking alcohol
from lead and pewter cups

To eradicate these awful mistakes
and to prevent many wrongful deaths
they hired men to sit in
cemeteries with lanterns and shovels
to listen for ringing bells

These bells were tied to twine
    the twine ran underground to
    the wrist of the deceased
If the person awoke
    inside their coffin
    and scrambled for escape
their bell would sound
six feet above and
the diggers would start digging
Hence, those buried alive were
saved by the bell
and the diggers worked what became
known as the first graveyard shift
The only people at that time
willing to work in the dark and
sleep during the day

So I’m at my new
graveyard job at the mall
I stock toys for the kiddies
I work in the dark, like Quasimodo
Because they would never
hire me for a daylight position
I guess I just don’t appeal
to their regular shoppers
and I definitely don’t appeal
to the kind of people
that stop by our store after
spending a few grand at Nordstrom

Come see the big hairy guy
Come one, come all
Come down to the mall
See for yourself
The big giant elf

I could never dance for a
dollar and I won’t give up my
dreams for a job
I work in the dark to enjoy the sun
I plan my life during
my ten minute breaks
while the nocturnal animals play
in the empty parking garage
amongst the littered
shopping bags, receipts and price tags

As the world sleeps
dreaming of their designer clothes
their bottled water and
their beverly hills lifestyle
I debate with myself whether
I have time
    suck down
    one more cigarette

If you can see
the blue my collar
then you must know that
I have learned quite well
just how to differentiate between
    the day walkers and
        those that roam the night

I prefer the light of the moon over
your basic fluorescent office fixture
The kind of light that assumes a
distrust between you and your boss
    The kind of light
    that peeks into and
    around every corner

Those are the lights the stores at malls use
to scare away the shoplifters and
those are the lights they
shut off when the graveyard shift
punches in
They know that something will be
missing in the morning, so
what’s the fucking point

The graveyard shift is creative
taking what is never rightfully
theirs, but obviously no one else’s either

There is always something so
missing when the
morning crew takes over
that the customers can
smell it under the hot
lights of omniscience

It is the creativity born with nightwalkers

It is how much the day hates the night

You’ll never see a pigeon
hanging out with an owl

You’ll never see Beverly Hills
hand me her phone number
as she leaves the mall with
her bags of 
    “Hey, look at me!”
while I enter the mall in an air of 
        Hey… look at me…

…We’re all the same, Beverly
You look really hot in that
outfit, the way it exposes your
midriff and your flat, flat stomach…

I just wish you could say to me:
“Hey, McGee. You look good in that dictionary,
the way it exposes your
ideals and manipulations,
your faults and your ambitions.”

…We seem to take two different
escalators to get to the
same place in life
I’m kind of like banished royalty
and you’re upper class white trash

Day and night can
never make love
They can only
tease each other
in a foreplay
they call twilight

The only things I regret
at three in the morning
as I solve the world’s problems and
chain smoke outside the mall|
are that I have no bell to ring
and rainbows never
come out at night

@ 1999 Mighty Mike McGee (9 December)

Written between Thanksgiving and Christmas while working at Valley Fair Mall in San José, California, as a seasonal overnight stocker inside the Warner Bros. Studio Store. An earlier version appeared in In Search of Midnight: The Mike McGee Handbook of Awesome published by Write Bloody Publishing.