September 13, 2012

Allan Johnston

WAITRESS

She has spent all these years getting mad at the main course,
dancing her fear in and out through the door–

the sad chocolate cream pies, the plates of french fries,
quickly side-arming as she twists down in front

of the guy whose cigarette floats in his leftover
coffee: the thing she’s dying for;

her own escape, break: the alcove between
the kitchen and the room where heads plunge toward food

lifted up on old forks–cigarettes, gin,
the nightly valium bearing her off to sleep:

away from the daily bread she gives up
out of boredom or pain: Disney white cap

and apron over the orangish, muddy
dress, earth-brown like a deep muck one finds

in rich scoops of back-washed swamps
where dead fill gathers and sinks, heats, compacts
into rich soil:
                  the dress, these careworn
hands, nails hot scarlet over

the chipped and bitten reality
and the nicotine stains: the lipsticked swishes

of lack of considering anything
like you human or worth the time
but only a passing check, a quick buck–

        if there were some way of making it,
        she would not be here, not leaving
        butts afloat in the styrofoam take-out
        coffee-cup ashtray she takes outside

when it’s too much. She needs to be free
the time it takes to suck up the blue

and poisonous cigarette smoke under
the neon lights that erase the stars.

from Rattle #24, Winter 2005