parley

kitchen
surveillance monitors
sit cater-cornered
above the office
safe.

a corkboard
on the left,
a beige wall
in front,
i sit and 
account for last
week's labour costs
at the
work desk.

the door,
less than 4 strides
to the right,
remains open
most of the 
time.

closing the door
brings distraction
and disruption.

wonderings leading
to growls leading
to questions of-
who is not pulling
their weight
right now? 
who gets to sit
out?
who is in there?

clatter and chatter
from the expo
make paperwork
distracting.

i recognize
this part of the
lunchtime movement.

a constant
symphonic metronome
of food orders
and
dish collisions
begin its
crescendo.

at best, 
my cue to 
jump
on the line is
5 minutes out.

next week's 
schedule can wait,
its the same 
as last week,
and next week,
on new paper.

i stand and tie up
my apron while
silent scenes
play out on the
back of house
feed.

salad being chopped.
sauce mixed.
meat unpacked.
staff coming together
and moving apart.

in one corner
a cook contemplates
a boning knife.

the task at hand
is to score the back
of rib racks, 
it prevents shrinkage,
his slow pace
is protest.

job lists rotate
each day, 
through each 
capable staff member, 
regardless of 
preference.

sometimes staff
are paired up
for cross training.

there are some
cooks that feel
entitled to higher
pay in these moments.

there are some
cooks that simmer
and stall their 
work.

there are some
cooks that accept
their duty.

he is not
the latter.

on the grainy feed
the knife seems
to jump or slip
and strike 
mindfully.

his left palm
blooms 
calligraphically
into a dark grey
mess.

the pause before
astonishment
is familiar to me,
cuts and burns
no longer lead
to screams of pain 
or unhinged, knee-jerk
attention giving.

injury comes 
with the work,
sometimes 
regardless of
focus and 
intention.

i am pretty sure
my same calm
response has made
others wonder
as well.

he holds his
hand above
heart height while
others continue
their work 
and waits
to be attended to.

his prep partner
leaves the station
and pops up on
another camera.

the phone rings
beside my paperwork,
on the screen and 
in my ear i get
the update of events.

from my view
the caller is frantic, 
the injured is calm,
not smiling,
but serene.

no doubt,
a hospital visit
is needed.

no doubt,
someone else
will need to finish
the ribs.

no doubt,
the frozen meat
and slick bones
are unpredictably
dangerous.

but it was
his look 
into the camera, 
into the office, 
that made me
wonder
if this was
purposeful.

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