waitress poems

Monday, June 06, 2005


Entering the dining room,
she is already set apart.
Because she is alone, a nun
lost inside the habit of another age.
Because she carries a book of poems
for company--Czeslaw Milosz this time, the earthy scents of Poland and Berkeley
already on her fingers.

Because she longs for God above all else,
for a love that orders the universe, that makes
the broccoli green, the wine clear, her heart full:
she further estranges herself by stopping
to pray
right here among the clinking glasses,
the voices, doors opened and closed
to keep out the wind.

Because she knows that none of this is hers:
not the poems, not the brightness
of the dining room,
or the almost Biblical nourishment,
the waiter sets before her--
a piece of fish, wine, a hard bread,
cold greens in vinegar--
No, not even the loneliness that drives her
to this noisy place is hers;
or the wind that sweeps in,
finding her at a table near the door--
Because of all this, she
folds her hands the way they taught her as a child
and begs her simple food:
gratitude, mercy, a knowledge
of the secrets her God so resolutely keeps.


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