Three Poems, by Mary Benson

The Fear of Los­ing a Crum­my Wait­ress­ing Job

In a dream I’m lift­ing bus buckets,
arms brim­ming liq­uid sludge
while the cred­it machine shuts down

and the par­ty of sev­en­teen walks out
with­out tip­ping, and I don’t wake
until the fourth alarm.

I’m still in my underwear,
dressed in my finest hangover
after last night’s post-shift, shooting

shit with the cooks who all have girlfriends
that secret­ly despise me
for hang­ing around so late, and I search

for a pair of black pants in a pile
of black shirts caked
in day old mus­tard, search

for lip­stick in yesterday’s pockets
when I know all customers
are unimpressible,

and the job is tedium.
I’m claw­ing through apron piles
of rolled dol­lar bills for my eyeliner

because real­ly there is no light
in the job oth­er than that glance you get
from behind a kitchen window

from a cook you’ve already slept with
on a drunk­en occa­sion, or a wife
watch­ing her hus­band while he watch­es you

walk away, your back pock­ets stained
with mys­te­ri­ous condiments.

There real­ly is no oth­er point
in rush­ing there.

The Dunkin Donuts behind my Apart­ment Building

has my black iced dark roast ready
before I ful­ly enter the door.
The cashier with acne scars

who always looks on edge quivers
his wrists and says “how’s it going”
and I say “not bad,” and it goes
nowhere from there

because that’s con­di­tion­ing: nobody
is con­di­tioned to speak at Dunkin Donuts,
nobody is expect­ed to know names.

That’s a local cof­fee-shop thing where they ask
about your kids if you have them
or your job if you’ve ever men­tioned it.

I don’t have kids
and don’t par­tic­u­lar­ly love waiting
tables, espe­cial­ly today when I’m hung

-over with con­tact lens­es still glued
in place and a cig­a­rette wait­ing to be lit
but the small Puer­to Rican girl with the beautiful

freck­les doesn’t ask questions
and today the man­ag­er with the gray­ing orange
hair and blue eye-shad­ow is yelling

at a new girl for ring­ing in two cof­fees instead of one,
and I wish it wasn’t so entertaining
to watch the heat rise
to the girl’s cheeks

while the manager’s eyes bulge
in that way that says “I’m in con­trol now”
because I’ve been there before

in so many jobs
where I hat­ed heavy female
man­agers because they were always

the most volatile towards girls
who wore eye­lin­er and small jeans,

but there was a comfort
in the top-20 playlist
on loop, and the anonymi­ty of ticket
num­bers, and that one spot to fixate

on in the dis­tance beyond
the coiled line of con­struc­tion workers
and antsy chil­dren, espe­cial­ly on mornings

like today where there’s a fight
between two teenage girls in the park­ing lot,
and a Coola­ta just flew from
a parked car window.

Servers walk­ing Home at Night

To the cat-calls erupting
from the slowed SUV,
we deal with slobs all night

and know how to walk away
from a shat­tered pint-glass,
a baby’s per­sis­tent howl,

a man who wants something
we don’t sell. We car­ry keys
bunched like knives,

Trav­el-sized hair­spray cans.
Des­per­ate weapons, but we make a living
dart­ing between trashcans.

We make a killing
on our feet. We clock in
know­ing cer­tain things will happen,

like large parties
who don’t tip. Five babies
in one booth. So to the bodies

sway­ing in the gas station
glow, we’ve clocked out.
To the crowd emptying

from the strip of bars,
we reek corn oil
and drug­store makeup.

Let us have this one.

Mary Benson photoMary Ben­son cur­rent­ly lives in Somerville, MA. She earned her MFA in Cre­ative Writ­ing from Les­ley Uni­ver­si­ty with a focus in poet­ry in 2013. Her writ­ing often stems from expe­ri­ences in var­i­ous ser­vice indus­try jobs, a work­ing class upbring­ing in rur­al New Hamp­shire, and strange frag­ments of child­hood memory.

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One Response to Three Poems, by Mary Benson

  1. Tim G says:

    Wow. Incred­i­ble work

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