Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fast Food Sestina (published in The Legendary Oct. 25, 2011)

Fast Food Sestina

On cold days Rochelle has to stand
out behind the back door just to smoke
a cigarette and worry about money.
She works doubles because she needs the hours
she and the manager have had a little talk
and she gets what she wants now, baby.

She flips her phone open to see a picture of her baby;
looks for the little envelope symbol to tell her where things stand.
Nothing there. She drifts back to when Corey would call to talk
and laugh and call her "honey". He rolled away like smoke
from a chimney. Now she fills her hours
with French fry grease, paper hats and never enough money.

She is going back to school when she saves enough money,
get her GED, a real job and some brand-new toys for her baby.
Or at least get some sleep, she's running on about five hours
or less these days. It's getting to where she can't stand
the thought of even one more shift meal, or the smell of smoke
when the grill gets too hot, or the way the high-schoolers talk.

Once in time, she could talk that talk
about who liked who, and what "I'm gonna get me with my paycheck money"
Now, these kids know better than to ask her for a smoke.
Back in the kitchen, the manager tells her she's going to have to baby
that machine along, or it'll fall right off its stand
and he's not paying for a service call after-hours.

She punches her card into the ker-chunking time clock and adds up her hours
in her head, how long to buy gas, how long for formula, and how long to talk
with Mama about this week's rent. She watches the customers stand
in line, looking up at the menu like it's a spaceship they have to give their money.
She smiles a thin smile as she thinks about her own little alien baby
sees her dropping from a space ship flashing its lights and spewing green smoke.

The onions in the machine burn her eyes like smoke,
but still she smiles for her little girl who giggles for hours
and grins like a post-card lake in the mountains, a cool blue-water baby.
some day, when that cool little girl learns how to talk,
some day, when she can afford the money
they'll find that lake, stare at their reflections in the water, and just stand.

Mama told her "You'll stand what you have to stand, put that in your pipe and smoke it."
So she deep-fries for money, sweats in an ugly shirt for hours and listens to the
code-talk from the line, "Double-double, heavy everything, and drop me some fries, chop-chop, baby"

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