I’ve seen how faith can fall away.
Tethered by late hours and the unforgiving
shifts, I’ve watched a waitress as her apron grew
tight against her belly’s curve. She took a week
when she first spotted. Fruitless bed rest and stale air,
the baleful TV flicker.
The grilled cheese went to hell and wrinkled dollars
found more fecund pockets. She came back thinner and a regular said
she almost glowed. She bundled silverware in paper napkins,
each table replete with knife and spoon. The fry cook knew
to mind his business. The boyfriend sold his cycle on the Net, flew
back east. Said he wanted to learn how to fix things
with his hands. Hard to nail down what went wrong,
but the uneasiness birthed a troubled silence. The neon sign
gave a shiver to the snow.
Before the baby we’d go to the beach, she says one night to no one
particular. He’d bury my feet, my arms and waist. Said he never wanted
to become his father. The unknown scared him more than me.
Our mistake was naming it too soon.
That’s always a danger with love.
Tonight a hard-faced preacher blows through.
He’s been sitting up late with the dead. He folds
his hands over a flock of fries, modest
slaw, leaves a leatherette New Testament, his only tip.
Heavy plows clear the roads. The bus boy hides
behind a strand of hair, works toward the pitiful
tree, mop slopping against the empty gifts
Santa’s left the unbelieving few.
catch a fire prompts for February 2010: testament, fall, beach, nail, cycle
•••Brent A. Fisk’s poetry has appeared in Rattle, Fugue, Southern Poetry Review and many other literary journals.