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Please, waitress

I am only the height and width of a girl. 

Poetry | Wine, poetry
June 6, 2022

This piece is part of the Wine notebook, which features original art by Su Yu-Xin.

I never believe men are as drunk as they act, though if I drank an equivalent amount in this heat, I would die. Even then, I would not claim to love my waitress. 

This sake develops with exposure to oxygen, so as time goes on, the flavor will change, I explain, though I can hear them mocking me as I walk away. The flavor changes, it changes

Sometimes they grab my wrists, pitching a scene in which I have the power and they are supplicants. Please, waitress, please—service. 

On my twenty-first birthday, I wash dishes by hand. This, too, a skill. 

How to move fast without breaking the dish. How to get everyone home on time.

I try to look younger, braiding my hair and changing my voice. I bring my hands into a neat fold.

And if I fight? I am only the height and width of a girl. 

I am on the floor when a man shoots eight people in Atlanta. Six Asian women at work in spas or massage parlors. The following night, I am still asking, What can I get for you? 

The father of the family says, A massage. The adult children look away. Is this worse than that party of professionals, saying spas, not parlors, smiling at me 

and at each other? 

A man cries I have been cold to him, backing me into a wall. This is his order: our driest sake, stripped of wax paper, which he dilutes with ice. 

He leaves me gifts. I appear more afraid than I am able to feel. Another man intervenes.

They all tell me I have grown up. 

It is true I move faster. I certainly break less. I get home, not always on time.

I smile more. 

The storage closet steams in the summer. Dust settles like insulation. Some sake goes bad and we bring it home to bathe in. 

We sink our fingers into the wine, portioned into mixing bowls. My anger rusts into sleights of hand.

For example, dishes no longer sound as I lower them to the table.