Inspired by a line in The Five Spot, a poem by Billy Collins which appeared in the May 2014 issue of The Atlantic. This was one of the luscious poetry prompts suggested by someone in my wonderful, hilarious weekly writing group. The line: “as the waitress lit the candle on my round table in the dark?” (Collins, lines 20-21)
The waitress lit the candle on the round table in the dark.
She’d had worse jobs. For weeks now, she has been working nights as a walk-on in poems. Often as a waitress or a young mother pushing a stroller. Last night, she was an old Italian man selling vegetables beneath a red striped umbrella to protect her from the sun. She easily played the part of man or woman, young or old, but in every situation she had sensitive skin, prone to pink.
She wasn’t always human. She had been a dashboard Buddha, enigmatic and serenely plastic. Nights before last, she had been a red squirrel, a sea turtle, a mermaid. Then, she’d been a sailor lost at sea, and the dolphin who saved him, and the palm tree closest to shore where he washed up on the beach.
Her feet hurt at the end of every shift. She often envied the poet who got to sit around, sipping tea or whisky, feet up, writing.
The poet had it easy. Nothing but dreaminess and words tumbling out of dictionaries.
But, on the other hand, more than once she’d been a dragon, breathing fire, flying. No poet could say that, could they?