2015 12 09
After waiting on tables for six hours
I like to stand behind the restaurant
alone and smoke a cigarette, and think
about nothing as I stare at bare trees.
I live in a trailer beyond those trees,
raising vegetables in a little garden,
and I watch old movies before I sleep,
so you could call me queen of trailer trash.
My name is Arlene, and I was born here
in Cleburne where I have lived all my life,
waiting tables since I dropped out of college,
earning just enough to raise my wild son.
Winter is coming and bitter winds blow
under my old tattered coat so I feel
freezing ice cut to my bones like a knife,
and the heater in my trailer is broke.
My son went hitchhiking to Idaho
last year with his guitar and several friends
from college for his summer vacation,
to smoke weed like I did when I was young.
I think they went to a national park
to join a rainbow gathering and play
music for the hippies and the rainbows
who want to get back in touch with the land.
He called me up just before school began
and said he was not going back to school
because he did not want to get brainwashed,
and he wants to find himself playing guitar.
I hoped he would be a doctor or lawyer,
or an engineer designing new cars,
but he now says college is a factory
that churns out mindless obedient slaves.
He does not want to be a money slave,
he told me, so I stopped sending him cash,
and now I am saving money to buy
a house where I can live safe and keep warm.
I got pregnant in college so I failed
to get the degree my mother dreamed of,
and his father left when my son was two,
so I worked sixteen years, waiting tables.
Now that he is gone, I can save my money,
and maybe go back to college and learn
how to use computers, so I can work
in an office, and get health benefits.
Maybe with an associate degree
I can escape the trap of poverty
that keeps me caged in this small nowhere town,
and I can go find myself somewhere else.
My cigarette is done so I will go
back inside and pour coffee in their cups,
and start reading the book on accounting
that I found last week in Salvation Army.
After trying to read the book for ten minutes,
Arlene sits by the window to watch cars
that glimmer in blue rain after sunset,
then goes outside to smoke a cigarette.