The Periodic Table

cheap chain motel restaurants,
breakfast buffets heaped
with limp meats
soggy pancakes
and under ripe fruits,
waitresses who
sigh and massage cramped
legs when they suspect
no one is looking.

This is where we
spend our morning-afters,
where I wish these
would turn into
sitting at these
these periodic tables
we scan menus
gummy with grease and syrup,
smoking cigarettes
and trying to pretend.

We sit, sleepless, ripe and raw,
indifferent to old men
reading newspapers in
corner booths,
damp and chlorine scented
children running and weaving
through the aisles,
weary parents
restraining yawns

you will say the same silly
remark to these
generic waitresses
you will make our same private
joke when the check comes,
the one I will not repeat now
because it pains me to think of it,
and after all this time
you would still say it
the right way
and I would
love it
no less.

Sitting at these
periodic tables
twice in a month
or once in a year
I watch you
add three creams and
two sugars
in the cup before
the coffee is poured.

I know that when you
shake the last Marlboro loose,
the one you keep
upside down in the pack,
the one you say is for
good luck,
that this is the cue,
and that soon, again,
the waitress will take my plate
cold and untouched
and you will get in your truck,
I will get in my car
and we will drive off
and one day,
as I look back in the rearview mirror
I will realize just how much
you always leave me starving
but almost nearly fed.


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