The Clark Apartment Building's Elevator Operator



The Clark Apartment Building’s Elevator Operator



Standing next to white people

makes my neck stiffen.

All day they utter numbers.

Two. Six. Three. I answer,

“Yes, Suh. Yes, Ma’am.”


I observe more than I let on:

the silver-mustached man,

wild flowers in hand,

arriving minutes after

Mr. 307 leaves for work;


the smell of speakeasy booze

on nightshift-nurse 614;

the shoulder holster bulge

of a cheap-suit-gunsel 211

who flips a nickel like George Raft.


White people have no eyes.

Perhaps, like Kluxers,

they only come out at night.

If they see me at all,

it’s the hat, baboon’s ass red.


For fourteen hours, 35 cents per,

I never stop. In one pocket

a tongue and olive sandwich,

in the other, a milk bottle

to piss in.


No one asks me the time of day.

No one asks me if it’s going to rain.

At the end of my shift, I walk away.

No one knows my name,

and that’s just fine with me.


When rumors spread of a lynching,

I consider myself lucky,

me a black man, going up,

coming down, going up,

always coming down on my feet.



Don Narkevic


Don Narkevic: Buckhannon, WV. A retired high school English teacher who enjoys historical research. Recent work appears in Blue Collar Review, Bindweed Magazine, Solum Literary Press, and Shorts. 


  1. humanity can be rather disappointing. we forget for every person progress has helped, progressed has helped bury someone else. in this case the elevator operator. do not be so happy about your computer, one day it may replace you.

  2. That elevator with its operator struck at memories and wondering about his life. Did he ever even smell the outdoors air, blending as he did, rather seedy and worn with that closed-in air. He was kind to us.

    You catch at his moments of his experience, the come and go; the up and down-- that lingering fear of rumors.

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