MAYA HERSH

do you see me

This poem was written about a real occurrence at a real job. Almost every job I have ever had has treated me as disposable and unimportant. This poem is about the despair of watching the world crumble around you when you are too tired to save it.

the heat rolls in waves across seattle,
breaks us into pieces,

the south end loses power again while the mayor
eats sushi and smiles for the camera,
my boss
owns two cars and bikes to work,
sits in the air-conditioned office while the factory floor
melts into lava and engulfs us,
we turn our faces to the fans and work until we drop
and they replace us,
need another body in the raw room, guys,
this one is toast.

there are cooling centers in the morgue down the street from me.
we joke
on break, it’s so hot in here it would be worth it, just
slide me into that fridge baby,
let me lie down a while.
we hold our meetings in the office (usually
off limits)
because my manager can’t think in the heat i am working in,
he says, go home if you feel sick
as long as you’re hitting targets.

once, we hired and fired so many people in the same week that i forgot
to learn their names.
i think one
was elijah,
he was so excited about free food in the break room
he poured all the coffee creamer on his cereal, ate it standing and gesticulating,
he didn’t last long.
my manager chides us about the rates of a person
they fired last year, our faces
must seem such a blur to them, the office people,
the ones who aren’t sweating,
they shuffle us like pawns with a click of their spreadsheets
just another expense to try to minimize,

my neighbor
layers tinfoil over all her windows to keep the sun out,
no one is selling air conditioners right now, except
the expensive ones,
like the one my boss bought
for his home
when the heat wave hit,
the factory floor reaches 94 degrees,
i go home sick and feel guilty for days,
drink water like it is a chore,
got to get back before they forget about me,
got to keep my body away from that cooling center,
keep my name on that paycheck,
it’s only getting hotter.

Maya Hersh is east coast born but made for Seattle, where she now resides and intends to spend the rest of her days. She has competed nationally as a slam poet since 2015, and has both coached and competed in the National Poetry Slam, Individual World Poetry Slam and Women of the World Poetry Slam, as well as competing and featuring at local shows across the United States. She has been published in Pangaia Magazine, Space City Underground, and They Call Us.

MORE FROM AUTUMN 2022 (4:2)

INTERVIEW

A Conversation with Seif-Eldeine Och, Poetry Chapbook Winner, Mark Blackford, Chapbook Editor

PROSE

An LSAT of Culture, Mike Yunxuan Li
Chichi and I, Noel Cheruto
Sudden Evolution, Eileen Tomarchio
Paying for It, Lana Hall
Decay, Rachel Lastra

POETRY

do you see me, Maya Hersh
Delineation of a Woman’s First Child as Her True Religion, Abduljalal Musa Aliyu
Busted Cantaloupe: Pilgrim, Isibeal Owens
Pray the Elegy, Njoku Nonso
Semper Augustus, Jessie Zechnowitz Lim
THE SEA SQUIRT LOSES ITS MIND, Claire Scott
The Long Call of Yearning, Guy D’Annolfo
Djinn and Men, Biswadarshan Mohanty
Last Communion, Joan Kwon Glass