Three Poems, by Mary Benson

The Fear of Los­ing a Crum­my Wait­ress­ing Job

In a dream I’m lift­ing bus buck­ets,
arms brim­ming liq­uid sludge
while the cred­it machine shuts down

and the par­ty of sev­en­teen walks out
with­out tip­ping, and I don’t wake
until the fourth alarm.

I’m still in my under­wear,
dressed in my finest hang­over
after last night’s post-shift, shoot­ing

shit with the cooks who all have girl­friends
that secret­ly despise me
for hang­ing around so late, and I search

for a pair of black pants in a pile
of black shirts caked
in day old mus­tard, search

for lip­stick in yesterday’s pock­ets
when I know all cus­tomers
are unim­press­ible,

and the job is tedi­um.
I’m claw­ing through apron piles
of rolled dol­lar bills for my eye­lin­er

because real­ly there is no light
in the job oth­er than that glance you get
from behind a kitchen win­dow

from a cook you’ve already slept with
on a drunk­en occa­sion, or a wife
watch­ing her hus­band while he watch­es you

walk away, your back pock­ets stained
with mys­te­ri­ous condi­ments.

There real­ly is no oth­er point
in rush­ing there.

The Dunkin Donuts behind my Apart­ment Build­ing

has my black iced dark roast ready
before I ful­ly enter the door.
The cashier with acne scars

who always looks on edge quiv­ers
his wrists and says “how’s it going”
and I say “not bad,” and it goes
nowhere from there

because that’s con­di­tion­ing: nobody
is con­di­tioned to speak at Dunkin Donuts,
nobody is expect­ed to know names.

That’s a local cof­fee-shop thing where they ask
about your kids if you have them
or your job if you’ve ever men­tioned it.

I don’t have kids
and don’t par­tic­u­lar­ly love wait­ing
tables, espe­cial­ly today when I’m hung

-over with con­tact lens­es still glued
in place and a cig­a­rette wait­ing to be lit
but the small Puer­to Rican girl with the beau­ti­ful

freck­les doesn’t ask ques­tions
and today the man­ag­er with the gray­ing orange
hair and blue eye-shad­ow is yelling

at a new girl for ring­ing in two cof­fees instead of one,
and I wish it wasn’t so enter­tain­ing
to watch the heat rise
to the girl’s cheeks

while the manager’s eyes bulge
in that way that says “I’m in con­trol now”
because I’ve been there before

in so many jobs
where I hat­ed heavy female
man­agers because they were always

the most volatile towards girls
who wore eye­lin­er and small jeans,

but there was a com­fort
in the top-20 playlist
on loop, and the anonymi­ty of tick­et
num­bers, and that one spot to fix­ate

on in the dis­tance beyond
the coiled line of con­struc­tion work­ers
and antsy chil­dren, espe­cial­ly on morn­ings

like today where there’s a fight
between two teenage girls in the park­ing lot,
and a Coola­ta just flew from
a parked car win­dow.

Servers walk­ing Home at Night

To the cat-calls erupt­ing
from the slowed SUV,
we deal with slobs all night

and know how to walk away
from a shat­tered pint-glass,
a baby’s per­sis­tent howl,

a man who wants some­thing
we don’t sell. We car­ry keys
bunched like knives,

Trav­el-sized hair­spray cans.
Des­per­ate weapons, but we make a liv­ing
dart­ing between trash­cans.

We make a killing
on our feet. We clock in
know­ing cer­tain things will hap­pen,

like large par­ties
who don’t tip. Five babies
in one booth. So to the bod­ies

sway­ing in the gas sta­tion
glow, we’ve clocked out.
To the crowd emp­ty­ing

from the strip of bars,
we reek corn oil
and drug­store make­up.

Let us have this one.

Mary Benson photoMary Ben­son cur­rent­ly lives in Somerville, MA. She earned her MFA in Cre­ative Writ­ing from Les­ley Uni­ver­si­ty with a focus in poet­ry in 2013. Her writ­ing often stems from expe­ri­ences in var­i­ous ser­vice indus­try jobs, a work­ing class upbring­ing in rur­al New Hamp­shire, and strange frag­ments of child­hood mem­o­ry.

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One Response to Three Poems, by Mary Benson

  1. Tim G says:

    Wow. Incred­i­ble work

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