Monday, February 18, 2008
My last day working Anita came back for a visit with her boyfriend, Salvatore, seen standing in the background. I read her the poem I had written for her, and a poet could hardly have imagined such an ecstatic reception. All the little jokes of the kitchen, and of Anita herself, enshrined in words caused rapturous laughter. The poem was a chronicle of sorts, merely stringing together bits of events as a prod to memory.
So you actually don’t mind working
for nine an hour in a kitchen, he said.
I said we orbit around Anita.
She lumbers here and there one leg numb, bitching;
she wails to the radio
apple bottom jeans
boots with the fur
the whole club lookin’ at her
she hit the flo’
next thing you know she got low low low low
low low low low:
the kitchen her karaoke
and we her captives, groaning.
She says it’s a sin to throw away
all that food
she says to Elaynah you’re so cute I could bite you.
I wanna be mean she says.
But you’re not I tell her.
Look at Stevo checkin’ out
Veronica’s ass she says
mimicking the polite old man’s sly leer.
You’s better keep outta my way
she says when she’s frazzled.
You’re lyin’ like McLyon she says.
We’re outta cottage cheese? she asks, just
scoop out some o’ mine.
I’m quitting I say;
she laughs, delighted.
But she doesn’t know how to be mean.
Mistreated as a girl, deceived by men,
she somehow harbored
a deeper decency, stored up all
the tenderness of the suffering meek,
and their fears:
Why didn’t he call me for four whole days
she asked us, Why would he lie
about his ex-wife? Should I just heave a brick
through the bastard’s front window? We counseled her
between tuna melts and London broils
until exhausted she sank back slowly
into the arms of ‘her Salvatore.’
Last week she went under
the knife at last, for stenosis.
One bullet, one gun is all I need
she’d say when it hurt.
Her last day she wrote a note on an order slip:
Hey Guys, I love you. Be Good,
Anita. It’s taped to a shelf
over the warming trays.
she needed the kitchen anyhow, needed us,
even needed our shit.
She made the Marchettas mussels and marinara sauce, special;
their happiness, even out of sight in the dining room,
was her happiness. She took pity on the old folk,
exiles from home, alone with money,
memories, moods, mourning.
She showed us crass
a Santa with a blinking red dick,
a fat nude woman titled
“your Thanksgiving turkey,”
but she snapped at anyone who tossed around
the name of the Lord lightly.
Any bitch fuck shit from us
brought a high-pitched ahhh! You’re so sweet to me,
a Your attitude is deplorable.
She got under our skin like a lemon on a cut,
our big-hearted Anita.