Monday, January 23, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Published by Caprice in 1992

At Woolworth's Lunch Counter

a man sits watching the waitresses work,
his cigarette smoke spelling out
retired and regular over his head.

Every once in awhile he lifts some 
apple pie to his mouth in slow motion, 
and regular changes to rapture.

You know he comes here often. You watch him
smile and nod to the sweet faced waitress,
wide as two people, who carries her breasts
like twin babies, swaddled tight in the navy
blue uniform, and so tenderly, as she
waddles past him with empty plates.

His smoke draws a heart in the air, and you agree.
Clearly she’s the pulse beat here,
the cook, dishwasher, girl who covers two stations
so the rest of them can go on their breaks.

You see a heavy woman with sore feet,
inching along behind the counter,
as if she were walking on hot coals,
trying her best to draw energy from the pain,
and unaware that she’s being watched
by this man in need of ritual,
this man with too much time on his hands,
this man without much reason to sacrifice.

So he comes here, to sit at this altar,
his gaze fierce and warm as a votive light,
burning for his Madonna of Tuna Melts.
You can almost touch his reverence,
circumscribed as it is in soft white smoke.
It lights up the empty glasses; 
it glazes the doughnuts.
The hot dogs glisten 
as they turn in their silver beds.

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