waitress poems

Sunday, May 01, 2005


Only a few months since
they dressed these old teachers
for burial, two plain wrens
in ordinary brown;
first Marie, then Dorothy,
their opulent white hair
glowing on pink satin.
A few months
and already they have learned
the wily tricks of the dead.
Careful to keep their distance,
they lose themselves
in crowd scenes. Hiding
behind other people’s eyes, they
duck into luncheonettes, disappear
behind menus. And when
I search the booths
for the bright flame of their faces,
that moment of recognition,
I am greeted only with empty stares:
No one here knows who I am.
Then this afternoon
on the way home from work,
the ennui and fleeting despair that
sometimes hit around 4 P.M.,
trailing me like a cloud of exhaust,
I thought I spotted
their fifteen year old Buick. Sure,
the color was wrong--
it should have been grey, not blue.
But it was the same conspicuous ark
no one drives anymore.
Nobody but hard-up teenagers and
old women like Dorothy and Marie.
Eyes on the Buick, I’m thinking
they could have afforded more--
a van for Dorothy’s wheel chair,
a jeep in which adventurous Marie
might have cruised the beach.
But years before I was born,
they committed themselves
to simplicity, sacrifice,
ideals as remote and elusive
as the hulking eight cylinder
I’m following with my heart.

first appeared in Potomac Review


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