Discouraged by leaf-slick highways,
I stop at the Dawn Café. Slow
and crude, the service matches
my mood. But there you sit
in your mink hairdo, frilly blouse,
your suede skirt draping your ankles.
Men shaped like pistons eye you,
their coffee getting cold. I nod
and you nod; but you refuse to move
to my table and explain the world
in terms I can easily digest.
In lieu of you, I order breakfast
of boxed cereal and orange juice poured
from a plastic jug unwashed
these twenty years. From your distance
you watch me read a newspaper
in which someone solved the crossword
in ballpoint without one error.
I’d like to ask why you hang out
where these dolorous men can see you,
but I suppose I already know.
The wet black highways glisten
as another gust of rain sweeps
more leaves from the witless trees.
Did you drive or did one of these men
convey you to your cinnamon roll?
I didn’t see your car but maybe
it’s hunkering behind the café
where once we brushed against each other
and startled with mutual shock.
I promise we’ll never touch again –
so sit at my table and smile
that galvanized smile your friends
admire and fear, so later driving
home on the leaf-smeared roads I’ll feel
human enough to survive.
William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. His most recent collection of poetry is Waiting for the Angel (2009). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals, including Massachusetts Review, Notre Dame Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Harvard Review, Modern Philology, Antioch Review, Natural Bridge.