When I Grow Up (Catherine Wiley)
I want to be the waitress snapping gum,
who leaves an orange crescent on the thick
white cup, calls the six a.m. men sagging
at the counter “Hon,” even when I know
their names. In the rumpled wallet photos,
their kids’ hair moves up, then over, ears;
tuxes lead to uniforms tight around the neck.
I’ll break after the rush, share a smoke
out back with the busboy, save scraps
for cats who hiss and whip their tails.
I want to be the one to find the newborn
swaddled in a quilt so worn its patches
have been patched, blue cord stiff, eyes squinched
against winter sun. I’ll take it up without surprise,
open it like a package in the kitchen
where the cook hums “Stormy Weather,” slaps
the patties down like prayer. I’ll grease the pan,
watch him slide the baby in the oven,
set the timer for some years. The new child
will come out done to perfection, smell
like cinnamon-baked apples, stay in our
kitchen always, forget the need to cry.