Monday, April 17, 2017


Poem for the Waitress at Red Robin
This evening its painfully clear
we are a nation of middle managers
purposeless and ineffectual
seated in cubicle booths
staring at cubicle buildings
doctors offices architecture retail
doctors office architecture town homes
decorated with blandly evocative americana
spilled loudly across walls
but it’s my nieces birthday
I’m not about to reason
with a five year old why this place is awful
Rachel is our waitress
her name in black marker
droops in the same sad tired way
she carries herself
I don’t know how many tables she has
but the wait staff is jumping
feigning boisterous friendliness
except Rachel, who probably
goes home to kids and has to
try not to be too tired to take care of them
The food is worse than I remember
the tv over our head blares
the tv on the table tries to sell us games
the noise in the room throbs
dull crescendos, you can’t hear the person
next to you, maybe we don’t want to hear
the person next to us
my nephew has taken the toothpick
from my burger, says it’s a sword
now it’s a gun, he’s fighting
imaginary bad guys
I take the toothpick
break it into three pieces
I ask can we pretend
there are no weapons
there are no bad guys
here is the state of Oklahoma
this is the state of Delaware
this is the Washington Monument
imagine a story where your there
and there are no bad guys
Instead it’s a pistol
a sword and something else
this narrative is fed to us so young
maybe that’s why so many americans
fight bad guys
that never existed in the first place
Two ice cream sundaes have arrived
Rachel is back with three other waitresses
they sing happy birthday to my niece
because they have to
because it isn’t life
                it isn’t work
unless you get to demean yourself for tips
-- Jason Baldinger

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