summer crickets on bar shift

cooks in the back
offering mushrooms,
but not the kind
from gravelly earth.

I told the youngest
the vaguest names
of songs from a playlist
that wasn’t quite mine.

they confessed to watch
me dash across the floor,
apron pressed on a weak uterus
while my bursa ached to swell.

and I shook my head,
already knowing
you don’t collect tips
by feigning knowledge of porn.

high schooler drives me home
and asks for my help,
as she writes a list
of things Colorado State requests.

I realize towards the end of many nights
that she cannot take noise
and forfeits her rent
to anyone who breastfeeds.

she makes me a strawberry shortcake
as soon as the manager falls asleep,
because no one comes at half past three
and he gave up on milk and Coke.

we take off our shoes,
pointing at cuts
and appeasement protruding
from both sides of dry feet.

peacock’s wing across her bangs
and the bow near my ear
digs into crevices
to compress my will to smile widely.

she wants to write,
and I give her my receipts
with their jaundiced backsides
awaiting ballpoint adornment.

properly quitting soon
without throwing away
golden dishtowels
with which she’ll comfort his son.

“it’s up to you”
is what I learned,
watching her care
for award-winning desserts she hated.

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