Poets Online Archive

Diners

 

The diner is classic Americana. Coffee, chrome and Formica, counters and booths, coffee, displays of oversized pies, coffee, breakfast specials, waitresses that call you "honey", coffee. The scene of early morning meetings, late night dates. Use the diner as a poem starter - as setting, perhaps a poem over a cup, breakfast orders, fighting a hangover, the meeting place for friends or lovers. As in any good diner, the menu is large, the possible selections almost overwhelming.

The poem, "Diner" by  William Dubie from Closing the Moviehouse served as the model for this prompt.



The Diner

No chez this or la that but
O Primrose, O Lucky Leaf,
or Pompton Queen: names
fit for a river goddess.
Try this some 3 a.m. surge
after an evening of random
gamble: drive any highway
and hunt the lights.
Find her floating on the night
like a paddle steamer.
Inside, the anonymous stool,
Mark Twain taking up a triple,
arms burly with delta mud.
Sumo wrestlers belly up to the
blue-plate special, crockery
mythological and thick as
Discobolus’ disk.  The Dalai Lama
orders a side of slaw.  Nietzsche
rearranges the salt and pepper, and
Newton drops a balled-up napkin
onto the Formica over and over,
charting the specks.
Walt Whitman, assignation heavy
in his barbaric paws, studies the
whiteboard, the baked monk fish
on his neighbor's ferryboat.
Menus tilt: laminated triptychs,
iconography of steamed
cauliflower and cheeseburger deluxe.
It's time for eats, time to drink
long and hard from the covenant
of coffee cups worn smooth
as temple stairs. Sop up the gravy
of your longest day.  Pretend
it's no different anywhere else
in the world.
 

Mary DeBow



Diners, Inside Out

Footsore, underpaid, and often weary
what of the cook and waitress pair
What do you see while standing there?
How does a diner look from behind
instead of in front where it's fixed up fine
so customers will come back to dine?

What do you think, you smiling pair:
the cook with his ladle, and waitress there
- with menu and water and look so kind -
ready to hand them your friendly line
so they'll return another time
- as they've done before and left a tip
sometimes more than given by most,
even for breakfast coffee and toast.

But in your day they're just a blip.
You know the diners who'll give you lip
Who pick apart each dish; to boast
and send it back, who'll always find
the food too done or not enough
of anything, or "The meat’s too tough,"
they gloat. Oh, they're not blind
to the trouble they cause.
To get your goat is why they dine !

In your wisdom you know that most
carry the ghost
of some other rebuff they can’t control.
That gives you pause.
You see The Diner as a possible place
where you share a truth with the human race :
heart-sore, afraid; too often weary.

Catherine M. LeGault


Tick Tock Diner

Three A.M. and it's as bright as noon
in here as Diana comes
to the counter in front of my seat.
The counter- where lonely souls sit
preferring this circle to the booth
where your solitude is magnified-
is empty and cold.  A fork, knife, spoon
and napkin wait. Some offerings left-
a dollar, two quarters, a dime.

My waitress of the virgin moon,
eleven to seven she serves
her fellow hunters who come to eat
after the hunt, tired and hungry
for some mythology of youth.
I imagine her arriving home at sunrise,
sleeping naked, bathing in the afternoon.
Her reflection in the clock, reversed
and pierced by the two arrows of time.

She says, " What can I do for you tonight?"
"Go with me, into the night.
We can chase the moon down to the sun
and hide from the light, your hair undone
on the pillow, chastity's hold finally broken."
But the thoughts, as always, unspoken.
"The usual, dreamer?" she inquires.
I look down at the menu of desires.
 

Charles Michaels


Diner, Untitled

He remembers how the mists rose,
bringing her to see it for the first time,
how the dawning in her eyes,
quick veiled, like the rolling of the fog,
how she ducked her head,
almost hurt -- but, fast recovering --
ran her hand along the chrome and
polished metal and thought
of what to say.

She was soon the beating heart
of the place, the cheer that rose up,
as the springed door shuttled the
early morning men in and out.
Matching her soft-soled tread
to the rhythm of the clock,
she could pour fast or gracious,
smiling over the mothers and their
small indulgent second cup.

In time, she took her smile
from the perk, met the sun as
it rose above the shining silver
bullet of a building, rested only
in that soft, lazy hour between
the lunchtime trade and the early
bird suppers. Counting out the days
in pancakes and lemon pies, wearing
thin as the pastel pink uniform,
dismissing the blue skies that chased
dream haze beyond the swinging doors.

Michelle Cameron


Basho's Diner

    This diner-
no one eats here,
    summer night.

    Another morning-
all alone
    chewing on dry toast.

    A waitress
sitting crosslegged on a stool
    in neon light.

    Another day passed
pen in my hand
    page still blank.

    Ice water
a large fly
    crawling up the glass.

    We don't live long
but you'd never know it
    by the poems we write.
 

Pamela Milne



Eugene

Red light
I'm in my ten-year-old compact car
When this guy on a Harley --a shovelhead
Pulls up next to me
His elbow had a spider web tattoo
Unattractive like most elbows
No
All elbows
Even little dimpled baby ones
Held my left one up to the rear view
Saw a white crusty area
A small bruise and a bump
That still held a piece of gravel
From my first ride without training wheels
Switched and looked at the right one
Three angry pimples from ingrown hairs
A scratch that was news to me
And more white crust --very ashy

The biker pulled out
Black fringe aflapping
He’ll never contemplate his elbows I thought
Or the lint in his ample navel
Think I’ll trade in the Pinto for a hog

Told my sister the executive
She said
The louder the motorcycle the small the penis
I said
But I drive a compact
She said
Uh-huh
I said
I'm 45 I never do anything wild and look at these elbows
She said
Please the food’ll be here any minute
I said
There’s a wild man in me trying to get out
She said
It’s mid-life crisis, switch therapists and I’ll call you Spike
I said
That's not enough
She said
Pass me the ketchup you've got responsibilities
I said
What about Gauguin
She said
You're not getting laid enough go on the Internet please
I said
Ah-hah motorcycles make women hot
She said
So does menopause and you don’t need a helmet
I said
Life is passing me by, I remember when Michael Jackson
    was black and safe sex was a vasectomy
She said
Look, Spike, when I feel this way I buy a new pair of shoes
    are you gonna eat your chips
I said
I need a little adventure
She said
Rent Easy Rider
I said
You don't understand, it's a guy thing
She said
Are you gonna have dessert
I said
No, VROOM, VROOM, VROOM I’ll have two
She said
And get some cream on those elbows

Buried my eyes in the dessert menu
Heard the roar, saw chrome, smelled blacktop
And felt free
 

Michael Z Murphy


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