Marianna Hofer
The Diner Waitress Tries On Names

In the demimonde
of the diner she
carries greasy food
as if it's all she knows
to do well.

She pulled on,
in her past, other
names like a blue
secondhand velvet coat,
loaned it out to boys
too drunk for speech
yet insistent on
a label for her,
a way to claim her
attentions next time.

When they called
Lily, Isabella, Magdalena,
the air went iridescent,
sounds shimmered where
the names hung while
she said, politely, 'No,
different girl, sorry.'

She finds nametags
left by past waitresses,
kept on the chance
they might return, want
these identities back.
Maxine. Claire. Lenore.

She pins on Claire,
remembers to turn
at the sound.
Next week she'll try
Maxine, a no nonsense
sound she neglects
to respond to.

When she gave it out,
her real name opened
doors for boys who, like
vacuum cleaner salesmen,
came in, dumped dirt on
the floor, then offered, if
only she gave them
a modest down payment,
to clean it all up; improve
her life, they promised, with
the latest cleaning miracle,
if only she'd act quickly.

Photo: Tina Fanning
Detail. Click for full image.