Friday, November 18, 2022

One Poem by Dave Roskos


When I was 22 years old

I took a job loading trucks

at United Parcel Service

in Edison, New Jersey.

Five 4 hour shifts a week,

11 pm to 3 am,

8 bucks an hour,

no benefits.

During orientation

we were given

a very long list

of zip codes

& were advised

to memorize them

if we expected

to remain in 

their employ;

there would be 

a test.

Then they gave us a tour of the place,

a massive complex with an intricate

maze of conveyor belts.

Then we were escorted

to our work stations.

The conveyor belts had these

portable extensions that ran right into

the tractor trailers so that the parcels flowed 

directly to us as we loaded them floor to ceiling.

We’d break them down fast

& put them outside the truck

as it filled up.

The foremen were like football coaches,

sticking their short-cropped cleanly shaven

corporate heads into the trailers

every five minutes & heartily

encouraging us to work faster


They carried clipboards

& claimed to know

exactly how many

parcels each of us

loaded per minute.


I walked off the job

on my third night

& drove home.


The next day my coach called,

asked, “What happened?”

I said I couldn’t recall what happened,

but he offered me a second chance,

& I took it.

I worked another week or two,

hating every minute of it.

Then my father died

& my first night back,

after the couple nights

I took off for his funeral,

I walked off the job



The coach didn’t call this time.

After a couple of weeks

of not being able to find another job

I went back to UPS & tried

to get my job back.

Someone from Personnel 

saw me & heard my case.

We chatted politely

as he looked at my file.

“You’re an English major?

I was an English major too,” he said,

“In fact, I edit our monthly newsletter.”

“Is that so?” I said.

“Who’s your favorite writer?” he asked.

“William Blake,” I said.

“I love Blake,” he said,

“Paradise Lost, great stuff.”

Then he asked me why

I had walked off the job.

I explained that my father had just died

& that I was depressed & stressed out,

had a lot on my mind,

& couldn’t take the pressure,


of the foreman,

& the absolute 


of it all.

He said that he was sorry for my loss

but couldn’t see the connection

between my father’s death

& my walking off the job

in the middle of the shift.

“Milton,” I mumbled, “Milton.”

“Excuse me?” he said.

“John Milton wrote Paradise Lost,

not William Blake,”

I said, getting up to leave,

“Thanks for your time.”



Bio: Dave Roskos is the editor of Big Hammer Magazine & Iniquity Press/Vendetta Books. Currently editing a mag called Street Value, a print zine which is online at: He works as a life skills specialist for a non-profit independent housing program for folks recovering from mental illness & addiction. 

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