Days of Conveyor Belt Sushi

Maria Prieto

I am closing tonight / with The Manager who insists / I personally make his iced coffee / as soon as I clock in. / The Manager reminds me / about breaks and California law. / But I’m not paid enough / to risk losing a table. / I compromise with cigarette breaks. / I still split my tips. / Halfway through my shift / I stuff myself with wrong orders / a game of chubby bunny with cut rolls. / The Sushi Bar Chef is getting suspicious / if my green tea is hot sake / and if I’m splitting my tips right. / The Regular walks in / ten minutes before closing. / The Manager welcomes him / with a fraternity handshake. / The Regular ignores the meaning of / market price / then refuses to pay / for the toro sushi times five / and the sake bombs times two. / The Regular waves the tip tray / a twenty as the carrot dangled / in front of my face. / Sir, please don’t call me / jailbait / then request for a hug. / That night / and so many more after / I compromise my morals / for gas money / and actual non-slip shoes. / The evening drowns out the karaoke bar. / Refilling soy sauce becomes / a ritual / less sodium as long-lasting fragrance. / The conveyor belt stops / for now. / The neon OPEN sign / haunts my dreams .