As I look up from cleaning 3AM
grease from the grill, a broken
elm limb scuttles across the lot,
a hand with nothing to grip.
I’m bent. I can’t blame fall
drought, December gusts.
I can’t blame the bandsaw
that’s run through my head
since I was a kid, not the pills
I took to muffle that grind,
not my father’s voice
that comes out as mine
when I want to burn my apron.
I won’t shake a finger at any of it.
Thirty-nine, almost broke,
the same cooking I did at twenty.
No closed kitchen door, laundered
white coat, osso bucco on china.
Bacon and eggs at the bar,
so close I can see calloused
hands. Hear low prayers, breaths.
Their own bandsaws at work
in their heads. Tips from slim
wallets. Bootsteps back into night.
In the slow come and go,
tend to the rows, empty
the stumps from ashtrays,
prepare the next place at a table.
Ready a plate when I hear the bell,
the night wind lash through the door.
Robert Lee Kendrick lives in Clemson, SC. His poems have appeared in Birmingham Poetry Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, Atlanta Review, and elsewhere. His collections are Shape the Bent Straight (Main Street Rag, 2020), and What Once Burst With Brilliance (Iris Press, 2018).