Twelve-Hour Shifts

By Jill McDonough

A drone pilot works a twelve-hour shift, then goes home
to real life.  Showers, eats supper, plays video games.
Twelve hours later he comes back, high-fives, takes over the
      drone

from other pilots, who watch Homeland, do dishes, hope they
      don’t
dream in all screens, bad kills, all slo-mo freeze-frame.
A drone pilot works a twelve-hour shift, then goes home.

A small room, a pilot’s chair, the mic and headphones
crowd his mind, take him somewhere else.  Another day
another dollar: hover and shift, twelve hours over strangers’
     homes.

Stop by the store, its Muzak, pick up the Cheerios,
get to the gym if you’re lucky.  Get back to your babies, play
Barbies, play blocks. Twelve hours later, come back.  Take over
     the drone.

Smell of burned coffee in the lounge, the shifting kill zone.
Last-minute abort mission, and the major who forgets your
     name.
A drone pilot works a twelve-hour shift, then goes home.

It’s done in our names, but we don’t have to know.  Our own
lives, shifts, hours, bounced off screens all day.
A drone pilot works a twelve-hour shift, then goes home;
fresh from twelve hours off, another comes in, takes over our
      drone.

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