The Forum Prize
Bent over the steam of my latest
enduppence, I reflect. Hours grease away.
I arrange the silverware in neat lines, pin
with spotted steel the thin skins of napkins.
I bring more cream. I bring the check. I sprinkle
atop each platter smiles, cleanly severed from my mind.
My hair is like a coffee stain; my breath, dishwater;
and time is a polyester ache tied loose about my hips.
I resolve to stay alive to the textures of things:
the small ridges of lipstain splayed against a gleaming mug.
I resolve to stay alive to the mingling of mop fibers,
the swell and the squeeze, the shining handprint slapped
against the tile. I resolve to stay alive. At night, I drag
empty seats to their corners, consider the screeches
of the drunks, dull the ache of my soles with the rough
and welcome caress of a stray cigarette. Mornings, I
stay out of the day’s way. I bring the cream.
I bring the check. I take the plates. I examine my face
in the flat of the knife. I hone my grief smaller,
into the simple shape of bared teeth. Amen.