People-Watching at the No-Name Diner

Photo by Michael Goad on

In today’s post, I’d like to share with you a poem that I wrote which originally appeared in the premiere issue of the Concrete Wolf journal of poetry close to twenty-one years ago. I sincerely hope you enjoy it…

People-Watching at the No-Name Diner

While digesting two cheeseburgers
and a side order of fries,
you begin to speculate
on the circumstances of strangers,
assigning stories to the unfamiliar faces.
The scraggly fellow with a pen
becomes a millionaire poet
transforming the lunch habits
of the working poor
into the ultimate metaphor
for the nature of existence.
And the throng of giggling adolescents
at the table to the left are plotting
the overthrow of the Archdiocese,
starting with Saint Ignatius’ School
for Wayward Girls. But soon,
you find your attention shifting,
dwelling upon the two figures furthest from you:

A stick-thin girl, midway through her teens,
and a bearded man, at least a generation removed.
They could be father and daughter,
or illegal lovers, wedged into one side
of their corner booth like paupers
in Potter’s Field. They sit graveyard still,
motionless as upright corpses,
neither daring to disturb the ghosts
laid buried in their silence.

Something is strangely amiss,
someone should be there,
her presence or the lack of it,
a gaping hole in this tableau.
Although you hear no sobs,
see no tears,
you can sense their mourning,
their grief, thick and black
as smoke wafting up
from the grease-splattered grill.
And you must look away out of respect
for those who might be dead
and those who simply wish to be.

—Paul Szlosek (originally published in Concrete Wolf)

3 thoughts on “People-Watching at the No-Name Diner

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