Saturday, November 6, 2010

TC: Waitress


File:Halloween chicken.jpg

Waitress serving at restaurant counter while wearing Halloween chicken costume, Leroy's Restaurant, Monrovia, California: photo by Ross Berteig, 2002

Not under pressure of a private grief,
Oh for but a few years yet of useful

Life, for all's complete once your rat

Race is run, that's how things go, no one prescribes to

Or gets to presume to order life
Around as though it were a sort of waitress race

Sister Life has better things to do than wait
Around in the wings for her part

In the next act of your however
Interesting meditative history


Mason's Cafe: truck driver, sailor and waitress at highway coffee shop on US 90 in Southern Louisiana: photo by John Vachon, 1943 (Farm Security Administration/ Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)


Anonymous said...

This is so very touching and the pictures you've used for border order and magnify this. To say that I really love the final 6 lines implies, I think, the quality and power of the initial 4. Waitress reminds me of Ray Davies' comment that he thought he wrote songs for waitresses and divorced people. I think he was being sincere when he said this.

TC said...


Many thanks, again.

The original caption on the upper photo: "D.K. made fine chicken, but there was something vaguely creepy about ordering eggs..."

I am certain Ray Davies was being sincere.

(This is again my guessing form of certainty.)

Anonymous said...

The first image of this poem contributes immensely to the grief of the waitress as exposed and detailed in the first line. The waitress in this photograph is portrayed as a 'display', as part of the restaurant's marketing. Her chicken costume says it all, as does her worn face. "Not under pressure of a private grief" seems to speak to her public grief, the sadness she carries daily as she is put to use. I especially love how life is described with restaurant jargon ("or gets to presume to order life"). I think this speaks to our culture's belief that everything can be "ordered" if we so choose because we have access to so much. The life of this waitress is contrasted with this idea and the words of the poem are to be taken at face value. Life cannot be ordered off of a menu like sunny- side up eggs with toast on the side, no butter please, and a glass of pulp-free orange juice. The last stanza is my favorite. The entire poem uses enjambment in really evocative ways but it is in this stanza specifically that I feel the entire weight of the speaker's tone. The "however" lingers for a while almost mimicking the idea of life waiting "in the wings for her part". The last line seems to imply that the waitress's life becomes interior as she inhabits her profession fully, a profession that demands an often debasing acquiescence.

TC said...


This extremely thoughtful and perceptive comment helps to open and extend the meaning and implication of the poem -- and the post. Many, many thanks.