waitress poems

Monday, October 17, 2005


Though he has never been there,
he knows the rivers that cut through
her Ontario childhood,
understands the way their mysterious arcs
subtly define the music she writes
for guitar and flute, and how the cold sun
of those isolated years
still slants across her days.

Would you believe that as a teenager
he collected all of Laura Nyro’s albums;
and when she first found herself
in the loneliness of a city girl’s wail
on that still Canadian farm,
he was there, too. Waiting. Knowing.
Humming in the distance.

If she just gives him a chance,
he will tell her about the books
that changed him, and how each of them
subtly foretold the story of her life, the snow
that spills into her music. Even now.

While her husband and his wife sip their wine,
leaning into the silence of bygone winters,
he presses forward on the couch, his eyes
enormous with rapport. And then, abruptly--
it’s time to slip back into heavy coats,
the night that sprawls outside her door.

Climbing into the car, the black carapace
of a half-forgotten life,
he clears his throat and starts the ignition while
beside him all along, a wife adjusts her scarf,
stares into the dark, and
feels her way toward a new equilibrium.


  • It's a kind of predatory empathy and your depiction of it is wholly accurate. I always wonder, in these situations, how much of the display is for the "other" and how much is for the "spouse." (I also wonder how often I've done it, or been the wounded party.)
    Lastly, it contains the best description ever of a car: the black carapace of a half-forgotten life."
    Strangely uncomfortable reading - which is why it is so good. Thank you.

    By Blogger floots, at 11:05 PM  

  • floots: A predatory empathy! I don't think I've ever heard that phrase or that concept expressed before, but that is indeed what the woman in the poem feels. Which is why it makes me uncomfortable, too. Thanks for being such a penetrating reader.

    By Blogger Patry Francis, at 7:23 AM  

  • Oh, this is chilling. While her husband and his wife sip their wine, - that's the line that I stumbled over, disoriented, before finding my bearings again. Along with the line floots mentioned, a signpost to both too much and too little attention given. And the coldness. I keep thinking about the many kinds of coldness here: obviously the snow, the calculation involved, or else it's complete self-involvement, the turning away from, the forgetting, the weather, the silence. *Shiver!*

    By Blogger MB, at 8:42 AM  

  • There is a penetrating chill to this as we watch cooly while trying not to feel (because it might hurt). Also I sensed we were seeing them off but we were almost in the car with them when they left. I suspect I'll be very sad as this sinks in!

    By Blogger Russell Ragsdale, at 9:40 AM  

  • Moose: Thank you for your thoughts. Interesting that the line about the wine jumped out at you. But you are right, it is central--and a bitter wine indeed. Also your comment about
    self-involvement struck me. I'm wondering whose--the husband who is focussed on his infatuation, or the wife, who is consumed by her own sense of injury.

    Russell: The heat of that car, after all that cold, is a claustrophobic place to be. Thanks for your comment, and your willingness to follow the poem into that small, enclosed space.

    By Blogger Patry Francis, at 8:04 AM  

  • this is a really brilliant study, so intense and painful.

    By Blogger Sue hardy-Dawson, at 10:47 AM  

  • What an interestingly sad character study of sorts. One that happens far more often than civilized society cares to acknowledge.

    Nice use of contrasts, very effective.

    By Blogger Erin, at 8:07 PM  

  • your site meter stats dwarf mine but I feel inclined to link to your fabulous writing so that a few others may find their way here ( I came through the fawnskin flyer)
    let me know if i am cleared to link, please.

    By Blogger David, at 5:48 PM  

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