by Ann Howells

The dining room reeks of hot grease,
checkerboard floor cries for a broom,
speaker snaps and buzzes, but the waitress
responds—picks up our plates:
ham and cheese on rye, pickle spear, chips.

Second cousin or first cousin once-removed,
she pretends not to recognize me. I play along;
time has bested her. Make-up cracks
her mouth’s corners, furrows plunge
between her eyes, and crayon red hair
reveals mousy roots.

I remember her, all pouty lips and curl,
cut-off jeans, poised atop the arched bridge,
daring boys to dive after her. She tugs
her uniform, too short, too tight;
pours coffee thick and bitter
as herself.

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