waitress poems

Thursday, May 26, 2005


Marlena, the bartender calls herself,
you know--like the actress,
though the regulars are quick to say
she’s really plain Marlene.
Unfazed, she slips the names
of the star’s old films
into the still blue air
while we sample her inebriants.
Poor bitch never got over it
when her knees began to sag,
Marlena says,
shaking her head in secret sorrow,
as she slyly sips vodka
from a Perrier bottle.
She thought those gammes
were hers to keep--
as white and solid as marble.
In her wallet, Marlena
carries her own snapshot
of impermanence--
herself at twenty-three.
Not a bad looking broad, was I?
she says, passing around her former self
like a gracious hostess,
before she tucks it back inside
its plastic sleeve.
With a little prodding, she’ll tell you
about the lovers she had,
names and stories as neatly cataloged
as Dietrich’s films,
and how she can tell in five minutes
of banal talk
how a man would be in bed.
Little things give it away, Marlena confides
pressing exhausted breasts
against the bar--
the way he holds a cigarette,
for instance, the range
and timbre of his laugh...
But at fifty-eight, Marlena’s given
up on men, forgotten all
those dazzling movies about flight.
What she likes now, she says,
is a cold beer and a game of Keno,
a chance to win
at something you can keep.


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