Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Happy Birthday BillyMom!

Well, it's BillyMom's birthday today, so I thought I'd celebrate with the following poem:


She was 19, with a Summer job waitressing
at the Monmouth Beach Hotel, New Jersey.
When working a banquet, a customer offered her
fifty bucks if she “dropped” the soup
all over the place. My young mother,
still a teenager, laughed it off.
But when she emerged
weighted down by twenty bowls
of tomato soup, her foot met a pat
of butter and
a scream, a gasp, the calamitous
CRASH! of the platter and a score of bowls
detonating like bombs ---
blood every-
The soup soaked a radius, a red-faced
nineteen year old at the epicenter,
and the fifty-dollar bill not discreetly passed.

I still imagine the chaos, my mother
relating this tale, wondering, wondering
what about the butter?
Was it strategically placed
or just chance carelessness
that set in motion the event
that would be remembered decades later
not just by me,
but by any one of those diners
or by my mother,
whenever she dipped a knife
into butter?

There is no better butter story
in my book. And though her manager was bitter,
my mother was richer.
Fifty dollars went far in 1959
and the image of catastrophe
nourishes me even today:
the blonde waitress falling,
the drops of soup spilling over,
the supper murmur before the clatter,
and there, the smile on the floor,
the arc of yellow
smeared by a comfortable shoe.

Brooklyn, January 9-10, 2002

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