June 11, 2012

Grace Bauer

OUR WAITRESS’S MARVELOUS LEGS

It’s men I’m prone to eye, but when she comes
to take our order, I’m too distracted
to think beyond drinks, too awed
by the ink that garments her limbs
to consider appetizers, much less entrees.

It’s not polite to stare, I know,
but the fact of her invites it.
Why else the filigreed ankles,
those Peter Max planets orbiting her
left shin, that Botticelli angel soaring
just below her right knee?

She’s a walking illustration, adorned
to amaze, yet as seemingly nonchalant
as the homely white-sneakered HoJo girl
I myself once was, describing the specials
of the day, listing our options for dressings,
then scribbling the choices we make
on her hand-held pad.

My companion can’t help wondering how far
up the ante goes, says he bets there’s a piercing
or two at the end of the, so to speak, line.
I’m more inclined to ponder motivation
and stamina—how long and how much
she suffered to make herself a work of art.
For I have no doubt, she sees her own flesh
as a kind of canvas. Her body as frame
and wall and traveling exhibition,
a personal statement on public display.

Same could be said of the purple tights
I wear beneath my frilly black skirt—
too bold a choice for some people’s tastes,
but not a permanent commitment.
Clothes make the woman more
than the man, despite the familiar adage,
and body as both self and other is
a contradiction we live with, however comfortably
—or not—we grow into our own skins.

I’ll admit part of what I feel
is admiration, even envy.
Whatever she may ever become
in this world, she will never again be drab.
She’ll wear this extravagance
of color and form as she grays
into more—or less—wisdom.

But tonight she simply performs
her duty as server, courteous and efficient
as she does what she can to satisfy
the hunger we walked in with, but not
the hunger the sight of her
inspires us to take home.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011

__________

Grace Bauer: “I am currently bent on surviving another winter in Nebraska, which might explain the longing for otherwise and elsewhere that keeps cropping up in my poems.”

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