A Gained Experience
by Daniel Wade

At the age of sixteen, I did my Transition Year work
experience in Tower Records, on Wicklow Street.
February of 2008. The second rain-swept summer
waiting to unleash itself. The recession still a rumour
in the weekly broadsheets. Every morning, I’d get
a DART into town, wearing my uniform of Docs,
hoodie, leather jacket, jeans frayed at the cuffs.
A week of stacking gun-metal shelves with C.D.s,
D.V.D.s, Blu-rays and magazines devoted to porn, music
and film, all interred in protective cellophane. I learned
to keep my head down, carrying up stacks of deliveries
from the basement in cardboard boxes, stamping prices
onto C.D. cases with a price-gun, nursing a slow addiction
to instant coffee. I didn’t get paid at the end, just a reference
for my teachers to mark and approve. I did a half-arsed job,
and no doubt I did, it wouldn’t have mattered. It wasn’t a job
I’d want to stay in for the rest of my life. Still, work is work.


My manager, a beer-bellied gobshite in a United jersey
who shot too much from the lip, watched me coming
and going about my tasks, a walkie-talkie clipped to his belt.
On the second day, he ordered me to help carry in
some new shelves, synthetic tiers furnished with steel edges
for holding the stock in place. It took four men to lift just
one of the things off the delivery truck. We hauled them
down the alleyway leading to the rear of the shop, where
we’d lean them against the wall. Turning the corner,
we saw, lying on a gutted mattress beneath the fire escape,
a junkie, thin as a sapling, heating a spoon with a lighter.
His hair was like lank iron, half his teeth were missing,
thin pocks of stubble stained his jaw. We could smell him
from ten feet away, the stale reek of his habit. My boss
bellowed at him for five minutes, abuse he didn’t seem to hear,
before beckoning us to come forward with the shelves.
He took me aside and told me to keep an eye on the door
that led to the basement — “just in case that junkie piece-of-shit
tries comin’ in here and fillin’ up his pockets” — before handing me
a walkie-talkie and vanishing upstairs with the others, saying
I was to call him if anything happened. I turned to watch
your man going through the ritual of spoon, lighter and needle,
throwing feral glances down the alleyway, biting down
on the cuff of his sleeve, rolling it up with his teeth, flaunting
the needle’s dull wink. When he injected, I saw his body
bristle with numb rapture. He lay back for a moment,
his breathing heavy, relieved. Finally, he climbed to his feet,
drew up his collar and staggered off down the alley,
getting lost in the swarming crowd of Grafton Street.
Not once did he notice me, standing just eight feet away,
or even hear the crackle of my walkie-talkie. I waited
for the rest of the shelves to be carried in, the chill of Dublin
swiping my face, the barbed chill of February 2008:
it made me glad to have gained another experience.

IMAGE: “The Wheel of Life” by Stanley Pinker (1974).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written in mid-2013, several years after the incident described. At the time of writing it, I’d become fairly enamoured with the work of the former American poet laureate Philip Levine, who often described the world of monotonous, blue-collar labour in poignant, unforgiving detail. Therefore, I admit to borrowing his style of litany-like, free-verse structure on the page, as it seemed like the most appropriate means of approaching the subject matter at the time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daniel Wade is a 25-year-old writer/poet from Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland. He has previously published poetry in The Sea (charity anthology in aid of the RNLI), Sixteen Magazine (e-publication), The Bogman’s Cannon (e-publication), Iodine Poetry Journal, Headspace, Zymbol Magazine,  and The Runt. In April 2015 he was nominated for the Hennessey New Irish Writers’ page of the Irish Times. His debut play, The Collector, was staged in the New Theatre, Dublin, in January 2017 to critical acclaim. Visit him at danielwadeauthor.com.