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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – November 7

November 8, 2017

Poem of the Week 11/7/17

Addie Mahmassani

Lead Hostess
El Tovar Dining Room
Grand Canyon, AZ

Her eyes were cracked cakes
of black
and blue-silver powder,
shimmering in the dusty light
of the laundry room.

Everyone there talked too much
or too little, and she
was the too-much type.

Just got here,
got laid off my last job
down in Phoenix.
My boss was a bitch,
but I tell ya, this,
my God,
this is worse.
I’m gettin’ out of here
soon as I can.
I can’t stay here.
You know what I mean?

Oh,
did I know what she meant.

I thought
for the thousandth time
of the bedbug bites
running up my stomach
to my neck,
a dazzling constellation
of big, bright red welts,
hidden beneath the pressed white shirt
and choking bowtie
of my uniform,

and the clear yellow-brown desert beetle
that had unearthed itself
from my last piece
of cafeteria cake.

Yeah,
I’ve been here a while,
and I’m leaving soon.

I.

If you get that piercing,
you will be telling me
you don’t love me.

Mommy said
the nose ring was a sign
of disrespect.
She never said why.
She just said
in the most chilling voice
I had ever heard,
I didn’t raise you this way.

I set my GPS
to the Flagstaff piercing parlor,
put my head down,
and drove.

II.

You can’t have the nose ring,

the ID lady grumbled
forty hours later
when they were taking my picture
for my employee card.

Up in the bathroom of the HR Building,
blood smeared across my face
and mixed with tears
as I twisted and
ripped the silver stud out.

I gazed at the mules out the window,
kicking dust around their stable,
and tried to rub off
the purple-black smudge
of the guiding mark
the piercer had made
the night before.

I wanted it
to be a good picture.

III.

Ah, it’s the quiet one tonight.
Hey, where are my tables?
Why’d you give Stevie that five-top?
Givin’ Stevie all the Italians tonight.
He your boyfriend now?

Stevie was not my boyfriend.
Leni from Bulgaria had recently
fallen in love with him.
Every night she came to the podium
wearing new pairs of clay earrings
he was buying her
at the gift shops.

I shuddered, thinking of
tiny, pristine Leni
under the naked, rough weight
of Stevie, who had taken a Greyhound
from a jail in Philly to
employee orientation,
whose myriad scars crinkled
into one big one
as he winked at his love
from his tables.

The other men,
high on coke,
ready to kill
for tips,
hated me
for not loving them.

They knew something
I did not:
fall in love
or leave.

I could not tell them
I could not love
or leave.

IV.

In the middle of the night,
when the menus were cleaned,
and the hostesses had gone to bed
with the waiters
in dorm rooms around the park,
I sat under the piercing stars
in the endless openness,
the Canyon a silent monster,
invisible before me,
and cried.

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