waitress poems

Monday, May 09, 2005



All praise be yours, Sister Death, from whom no mortal can escape
--St. Francis of Assisi

In the great stillness that follows you,
we come and pick through what was left behind.
Artifacts from a civilization of one,
they are studied for meaning: the books
she used to explain the world,
kitchen utensils and honorary degrees
jammed in boxes--
all rendered useless by your touch.

Look at this! we cry, ablaze with memory.
The Magic Flute, her favorite opera!
We seize the record that has become
obsolete in a world of CDs. Still we listen
as we sift through the photographs that are
hopelessly out of order now--
time’s predictable sequences blurred.
Here college graduation is followed
by a three year old’s wary smile;
former colleagues are trapped
in endless celebrations no one remembers.
Do they know how valiant they are
lifting their yellow overexposed hands in a toast, time spilling from their glasses? Do we?

And always in some unseen corner:
You, the hidden note in the opera,
lingerer at every party,
silent and common as dust.
We search the photographs
for a glimpse of your grinning mug
buried among the crowd shots:
Are you the tyrannical sibling
who always gets her way,
the neighborhood bully who takes down
the strongest among us
without a contest? Or are you
what she believed you to be:
the faith she staked her last breath upon,
a longed for angel whose benevolent hand
has unleashed the stars from their rigid path
and made this empty room sing?


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