waitress poems

Sunday, June 19, 2005


It’s two in the morning and after a twelve hour day,
James and I are washing dishes in the hotel kitchen,
the place so still that the clanging of the old machine becomes
percussive, vaguely uncertain, like the pulse
that underlies everything. For a long time we float in its echo.
Then the old bluesman, who’s supported a killer music habit
by washing dishes for nineteen years
sets a glass rack on its side and takes a seat.
You won’t believe where I was a minute ago,
he says. And though I’m too tired to ask,
I know he’s going to tell me anyway.
Alabama, he says. Alabama 1981. I resist a little longer,
then pull up my own rack, light a forbidden smoke:
Okay, so take me to Alabama.
Like all the dishwasher’s stories, this one begins with the moral.
Setting and character will come later,
but the first thing James wants me to know
is that some of the most talented people on earth
spend their whole lives playing dives--
nothing more than shacks--
giving it away without ambition or desire.
These people hear music in their sleep;
they dine on it, breathe it into every heart they enter.
Take the band I heard that night in ‘81. Some nothing town
in the middle of Alabama, thirty or forty people
crammed into one of those shacks,
and these guys gave up the real thing.

James says, temporarily forgetting the racks of dirty dishes
that surround us, the fatigue that beckons like deep water.
Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night,
or stop dead in this place, and I’m there in that shack--
a gin and tonic in my hand,
the light gone wavy with smoke and sound,
and that music--more real than anything I ever heard--
still snaking through my veins.



  • i found myself thinking about this one, long after i read it.
    its wonderful really and it shows your talent how you paint in few lines the character, the setting etc of the people in the poem and it has lots of resonance too.

    By Blogger gulnaz, at 1:15 AM  

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