Jonathan ROBIN

(22 September / London)

To an Acting Waitress or Waiting Actress after Hamlet's Soliloquy


To wait, or not to wait, that’s in the question,
especially when some guests get indigestion,
[when they grow tougher then the going’s rougher]
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
the strings and sorrows of outrageous patrons,
the binges of obese Manhattan matrons,
the noisy kids, their straw-blown soda bubbles:
or to take arms against such teething troubles
and by opposing, end them? Still keep one’s cool,
condone uncouth conduct? Gladly suffer fools?

There’s surely something rotten in Life’s rules
when talent’s turned to bars and barred from schools,
when terms of reference ability are not retained
but cash-commitment terms need be regained.
For there are pressing claims and urgent needs,
though many try, scarce one percent succeeds
and one percent of these may save their soul
as economic pressures take their toll
of high ideals, oft leaving empty shell
and little else as epitaph, ah well!

Fame, fickle, tithes her victims. Actors’ knell
tolls far more frequently than curtain bell.
Thus those who would their sacred dream preserve,
who from dell’arte’s path would never swerve,
must make much sacrifice. To serve, observe,
the scene, and by to serve we mean to fend,
[or to unemployment decent descend]
the heartburn and the thousand natural shocks
frail flesh is heir to. Men gorge till doctor knocks!
Is such consumption devoutly to be wished?
Ere shift’s resumption let the check be dished!

She better fate deserves! To serve, observe
the table 'they' reserve too often stands
unused, spinsterlike longing for unknown hands,
the shining silver serving to reflect
the restless queue, in order ready-pecked,
which full of sound and fury takes its cue,
observing, spiting, little else to do,
from tipplers caring more for ceaseless sips
then for efficient service or her tips.
To serve, unwaiting wait. Oh what a weight,
especially if she’d rather be his date!
for in that waiting work few dreams may come
until one’s shuffled off that uniform
which often scratches, rubs. Where’s the respect?
She’s human, not a worm, nor less insect!
It makes calamity with such long hours,
so underpaid, while taxing all her powers.
Expending all youth’s energies for cents
as others benefit at her expense,
their’s the profits, for self little sense!

For who would bear these whips and scorns for long,
patrons’ contumely, supervisor’s wrong,
the pangs of wasted food, ill-cooked, despised,
[the impudence where, uninvited, eyed
the worthless stranger who advances tried
who may not be so easily denied
in public places audience, she cried! ]
Waste in untasted food, those long delays,
days melting into nights, nights into days,
the insolence of chefs, and the sharp spurns
that patient merit from the unworthy takes.
When she herself might true quietus make
with rare home cooking? Who would fardels bear,
insults at work, with little time to spare,
to grunt and sweat under a weary life
with strife at work, at home, through tiredness, strife!
But that the dread of nothing else to do,
lest dreams sound hollow, courses follow through,
or kids to mind, rent find and clothing too
threats unemployment act upon morale.
‘Tis true, and all to often ça fait mal!

The options open often puzzle will,
and make us rather bear those ills we have
than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
for few will answer truly to life’s call.
Thus the native hue of resolution
is sicklied over with pale cast of thought
losing all instinctive love of living!

Should one desire to act upon dire fate,
ambitions fire! React! No longer wait!

Submitted: Thursday, June 13, 2013
Edited: Tuesday, July 30, 2013

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

(2 November 1981)

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