Terry Lucas

Break Room

Walls, once milk-white, now scalded from the flame
of years, a broken black line from folding chairs 

leaned back, scuffing paint. You can tell
full-timers—propped-up feet, the way they sit

on brocade cushions brought from home, 
while temps eat erect, not knowing how

to spot employees from Loss Prevention. 
Half a vending machine sandwich is drying out 

in a plastic triangle—someone called back to the sales floor.
Lettuce too green to be real droops over 

stale crusts like clocks in a Dali painting. 
On the big screen, Ken and Barbie 

read the news from a teleprompter, eyes 
scanning our tired faces. A winter storm 

in Midwestern cities everyone is happy 
they don’t live in. Volume too low to make out 

words, but no one cares. Except for the iPhones,
you might think this a meditation class,

the way everyone seems mindful
of only the present moment. Each act a ritual 

counting of minutes before clocking back in.
Someone lifts a Styrofoam cup, drains the last

caffeinated drop, another flips back a shirt cuff,
checks a watch. Without acknowledgment, 

the room registers the gathering of scraps, 
snaps of Tupperware lids, the open-fridge

chill, the final disposition of trash. Then the moaning
hinge of the break room door, the sigh

of pneumatic stopper—the latch bolt’s click.