John Betjeman

The Lift Man

The Lift ManIn uniform behold me stand,
The lovely lift at my command.
    I press the button: Pop,
And down I go below the town;
The walls rise up as I go down
    And in the basement stop.

For weeks I’ve worked a morning shift
On this old Waygood-Otis lift.
    And goodness, don’t I love
To press the knob that shuts the gate
When customers are shouting ‘Wait!’
    And soar to floors above.

I see them from my iron cage,
Their faces looking up in rage,
    And then I call ‘First floor!
Perfume and ladies’ underwear!’
‘No sir, Up only. Use the stair.’
    And up again we soar.

The second floor for kiddie goods,
And kiddie-pantz and pixie-hoods,
    The third floor, restaurant:
And here the people always try
To find one going down, so I
    Am not the lift they want.

On the roof-garden floor alone
I wait for ages on my own
    High, high above the crowds.
O let them rage and let them ring,
For I am out of everything,
    Alone among the clouds.