Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2011 v10n1
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Skating Waitress at the Circle Drive-in

We’re grandparents now. Then bright steel fins lined up, all
the fathers waiting to die in wing chairs at home. The beat
oozed from open car window to car window, each bearing
a tray the waitress tilts and locks. Then a hand slides out
dropping change as she twirls, who’s also dead, her flying
ponytail electric, and just then the pink Cadillac, and the black

faces as glass smoothes slowly down, smoke hazing inside.
That’s all it takes. I can hear knuckles crack, the words
like flecks of spit in summer air, like looping bats visible
in high moth-swirls of light. But nothing happened the way
everybody thinks. Milkshakes gone, we slumped, unbuckled,
cruised the river’s salt marsh, boats fishing where it’s lonelier

than we knew, some asleep on deck, maybe learning how
beautiful shore lights are. Soon a girl slips off a pink sweater
where we’ve pulled in to park. We don’t expect headlights,
so many cars, guys piling out for the fight, one bleeding
on the warm Oldsmobile. Tomorrow I’ll wax my dad’s Ford,
drag the old mower over wasps, shoot baskets with anybody

at school, trying hard not to see the black face all pushed out
for what’s coming, the skater saying, “We don’t serve niggers.”
Whoosh, hot air leaves my mouth, ball drops, I see him,
teeth bright as a bug light, and the backseat face whines
“We don’t eat them either,” so night breaks like ice thrown
on pavement, like a ball slapped. I felt each humped tar strip,

every small body struck turned to goo I’d never get off.
If I tell you I’m watching TV’s b-ball, I’m watching him
watch me watching the dark, a man surely alive as I am.
Who never was stabbed, or struck, or rose up to say
“Fuck you” to that ass skating away, to her pimply cheeks
sucking in, out, to the gum-chew, rat-hair the sailors cried for.

Who didn’t have a reason to whistle any word we might hear.
Then lips, nipples, the usual sounds poured at the dark, also
fists and feet rustle, and ticking in the head. Why, as if floating,
did our bodies bang out of control? Who brought us that baby
in the back seat? Nights skating until the Circle closed.
How aimless all was, like sperm puffed up, beating a way home.  end

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