Eat Poem by Ronald Shields


Cold and dark in the morning
talk comes with a price
it is a bargain for the waitress
and diners get what they need.

The eggs are served with sympathy
for another birthday missed
the road is more than miles for
the trucker who takes them over hard.

Booth number 9 is an omelet and oatmeal
a preacher and acolyte looking for a church
the preacher's collar is frayed and yellowed
in service to a god who speaks too softly.

At the table by the door the farmers drink
coffee and talk of weather tractors prices
they have the look of a dying breed not because
they are old -their sons are off to college the
army the city or anywhere else
daughters will wait
not one of them will marry a farmer.

A young couple passing through
sits in number 8 close almost huddled
the boy counts his coins the girl looks cold
the waitress brings hot tea
'It's on the house honey.' They order toast
to share, she slips ham onto to the
plate when the cook's not looking
'I'll take that outta your tips.'
he never does.

The woman at the end of the counter
tattoos a glass with her lips
she is the blue plate special one egg
one pancake two strips of hard salty bacon
the long night gives her an appetite for
comfort and something real before going home
to wash the haze of stale cologne out of her hair.

Street lights go out
the sun promises warmth
diners pay bills homage thanks
and go out to live in the light
the waitress cleans tables
then counts her tips

She floats from counter to table
to booth serving coffee water eggs toast and
some things not on the menu
reassurance hope sustenance for the day
she takes their orders brings what they need
and all of this beneath a sign that says EAT.

Ronald Shields

Ronald Shields

New York City
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