The Waitress (James Lucas)

She lived in a land

of hash browns and

greasy countertops.

Where half-eaten pie

sat beneath a grimy dome,

where the coffee was always brewing

and the barstools had beige upholstery

that had split open

like a wound.

At the cash register sat Peggy

a new romance paperback every day,

spine broken,

a bright red press-on nail

gliding under each word as she read.

Sometimes a song came from

the glowing amber jukebox next to the men’s room

and that song

would make the waitress think

of her son,

it would be the kind of music he liked,

all noise and make up.

She would smile

in a melancholy way.

She always smiled at the wrong time.

Smirking at the boy’s funeral

as his father made a scene,

an obedient new wife at his side.

Hollow, with a

bemused expression

she had pretended not to hear the whispers

of gossiping mourners.

She refilled the coffee cup

of a trucker who looked

at her with disinterested,

piggy eyes.

Twenty years ago, he would

have called her “sugar”

and left a large tip,

winking at her

as he took a toothpick.

In the corner booth

were teenagers

who called her “ma’am”

in a way that made her feel old.

In the back was Frank

the fry cook

who still helped her into her coat

and held doors for her.

A good man

a vanishing species.


when it was slow,

she’d stand back there with Frank

as he talked about his grandkids

and she’d stare into the

bubbling oil

and fight the urge

to dive headfirst.

One thought on “The Waitress (James Lucas)

  1. I love this, and also your Some Thoughts on Math 101. Both are pieces I will have to come back and read again when the moment is right. So much spontaneity and realism. I personally think free verse is much harder to get, “just right,” but this really nailed it in my opinion. Very much enjoyed, thank you.

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