Tonight’s broadcast is all but drowned out
by my fellow small-town diners, who, with the ring
of a bell take refuge from the late autumn chill.
But I gather from the flickering TV that pedestrians
still stalk the impatient sidewalks of our great cities
resigned to life’s thousands of petty grievances.
I can feel their fatigue in my bones,
the ankle twisted on the subway stairs,
and the need for a drink;
even, while at the same time,
a group of boys in another part of the city
divines the future in a heap of broken glass.
Here in the hinterlands, Dolores, the waitress
in her faded gray dress, refills my coffee
and with quivering lips conveys her pride
that her boy has gone off to serve.
From throughout this patch of the provinces
and all across the land, boys in their prime
are cut down like winter wheat.
I start to tell her something, but she turns
and doesn’t hear; one more voice, like the clatter
of cutlery, added to the general din.
Most of the folks in here are also tired,
and try to keep warm from the steam of their coffee
that rises to shroud the windows.
But the banker with the bright pink face
and the doughy hands seems jolly; he cracks
a joke and winks as Dolores walks away.
I’m not sure why I want to take a meat cleaver to his fat fingers,
since I am as complicit in all of this as he,
and he did, after all, once almost approve me for a loan.
But, before I leave, I lean across his booth to write
a few choice words in the steam of the window, then
once out the door, kick a frozen doughnut to the curb.
—Tim Hawkins, Rockford, MI