Temp

Erin Hoover

I brewed coffee for the salesmen at a dealership
by the airport, opening and closing cabinets
in canned air, wheeling my chair across the tiles,
my only job to smile at people who leaned
on reception and talked about their kids. The lady
I filled in for taped up a photo of her grandson,
a boy who watched me from the bulletin board,
eager to kill my own time for $6.50 an hour,
his tiny lips moving: It is not one choice
but hundreds. When I stepped into the lot
for a cigarette, the sun lit every nerve, summer
heat like a full-body smack. I thought the sky
cupped down tight would lift just for me.
Years later, in a corporate office far
from the airport, my numbered days fall away
like molted shells. The receptionist at the dealership
must have retired by now with plastic stems
of champagne and store-bought cake. By now
she might be dead. At night I dream of cannibals
spreading sallow fat on biscuits, the arms
of undersea creatures waiting to drag me down,
and the boy in the long-ago photo:
It is not one trap but hundreds. You will not
even feel it. The brittle sound of my coughing
strikes the office walls. No one asks
how I got here or remembers who I replaced.

2 Comments

  1. God, I love this piece. Perverse, maybe, but I printed it and hung it behind the monitor at my job. It’s not once compromise, but hundreds. I think, sometimes, I feel it.

  2. This is an amazing poem, Erin. Brave, Poignant, and universal. Thanks for putting it out there. Dan

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