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Waiting Tables

ISSUE:  Autumn 1990
She kicked her shoes off, first thing, collapsed
into the easy chair, shut her eyes,
and began to dream of someone

who’d work the knot out of her left shoulder.
After a busy shift it always bothered her,
even more than her swollen feet.

All the heavy lifting, they say—
tray after tray stacked with plates.
How many times had she lowered one
without a sound, and placed dinners
nearly unnoticed between one couple
or another? Always the sweet talk
across the table continued
on the fringe of hearing

though most things went unsaid—
the way a woman would bite her lower lip
and fiddle with her earring, the way a man
would blink slowly and lift his glass
without so much as a glance at it.
She knew them by heart,

those small gestures that had to
lead somewhere cozy,
though one haul after another
she was a swimmer in cold water.


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