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Austerlitz, New York

ISSUE:  Spring 1996
Two girls dance out of the bathroom,
twins in patent leathers,
clattering into the empty diner,
running along the counter spinning stools.
Orange white orange white,
chrome sides reflect booths
and bus buckets in a woozy
speedy swirl. Mom emerges,
keys in hand, maneuvers
them out into the car—all
wrinkled brow and frazzled, tired,
falling in behind the wheel.
I watch until she turns onto the highway,
then look back in here: stools still going,
some dented so they’re making seasick progress,
lilting on around—even I swing by
over and over in the whizzing mirrors,

widened, stretched. It’s paralyzing;
I have to look away, press beads of water from my glass
into my palm. I wish those girls were back,
running endlessly, fingertips extended,
the slap and hum and dizzy view—
but the car’s long gone into the mountains
and the stools are easing into stillness,
not in order. The waitress laughs
behind me and calls into the kitchen—
ruckus of pots and pans—she laughs again,
crosses, sits down and lights a cigarette.
Her one elbow’s on the counter;
her smoking hand is down
gently spinning the seat beside her. . .
its breeze jerks softly at the rising troubled smoke.


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