poet David Lewis Paget

David Lewis Paget

The Seventh Floor

He worked in a great Department Store
As the window dresser’s mate,
Carting mannequins, wigs and clothes
From the back through an iron gate,
The store room piled to the roof with props
And the bolts of coloured drapes,
Was dark and damp, and a single lamp
Traced shadows through coats and capes.

The store stood over a hundred years
Was red brick to the core,
And towered above the other shops
Right up to the seventh floor,
They said there were gargoyles on the eaves
That would spout when the gutters filled,
And a Griffin standing with evil claws
That would leave a brave man chilled.

The buyer sat in a closet room
Where he’d watch the assistants work,
And call them in for the slightest sin
If he caught them trying to shirk,
He would warn them once, would warn them twice
He would warn them three times more,
Then send them packing to personnel
Way up on the seventh floor.

Nobody ever came back from there
Not even to punch their card,
Their coats and hats were collected up
And thrown, tossed out in the yard,
The beggars hovered around out back
When they heard the buyer roar,
‘Get your faggoty, skinny ass
On up to the seventh floor! ’

Peter Peeps had been sound asleep
In the window well one day,
Trying to quell a head of Moselle
He’d imbibed, with Martha Hay,
A girl that worked on the second floor
With a line of maiden bra’s,
He’d had as much of a chance with her
As a flight to the planet Mars!

The buyer came to the window well
And he saw him sound asleep,
Then yelled, ‘Get up to the seventh floor,
You’re finished, Peter Peeps! ’
So Peter sighed, and he took a ride
On the escalator up,
Higher than ever he’d been before,
His heart in a paper cup.

On the seventh floor was an old oak door
In a passageway filled with gloom,
A flickering gaslight either side
As he stepped through, into the room,
A metronome was ticking away
In a long, slow measured swing,
When a man in an old Top Hat approached,
‘Are you looking for anything? ’

‘They sent me here to collect my pay,
Is there anything I should sign? ’
‘You’ll get no pay from the Firm today
But you’re here, so now you’re mine! ’
Peter backed to the old oak door
That had latched as he came in,
There wasn’t a handle on that side
And the man was looking grim.

‘You’ll never get out of here again,
You’ll have to work for your tea,
I’ll fix you up with a ledger, here
It’s eighteen seventy-three,
The seventh floor is a time-warp that
Was set when the store was built,
And all of you shirkers end up here
While you’re working off your guilt.’

He showed him the rows and rows of desks
Like a mid-Victorian link,
With everyone filling the ledgers in
With a pen they dipped in ink,
And there was Roger, and there was Ann
And there was Fiona Shaw,
He’d watched them once, all weaving their way
On up to the seventh floor.

The windows looked down onto the street
But it wasn’t a street he knew,
There wasn’t a horseless carriage there
And the other shops were few,
‘What if I smash the window here
And jump on out to be free? ’
‘Then you will be buried before you’re born
In eighteen seventy-three! ’

Peter Peeps looks out on a world
That had gone before he knew,
Then turns the page of his ledger back
To eighteen seventy-two,
There are rows and rows of figures there
That were written before his day,
But the one thing that he’s smiling for
Is the arrival of Martha Hay!

10 December 2013

Poem Submitted: Monday, December 9, 2013
Poem Edited: Tuesday, December 10, 2013

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