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The Forum Prize, Spring 2017
Talley Kayser
Service
Bent over the steam of my latest

 enduppence, I reflect. Hours grease away.

I arrange the silverware in neat lines, pin

with spotted steel the thin skins of napkins.

I bring more cream. I bring the check. I sprinkle

atop each platter smiles, cleanly severed from my mind.
My hair is like a coffee stain; my breath, dishwater;

and time is a polyester ache tied loose about my hips.

I resolve to stay alive to the textures of things:

the small ridges of lipstain splayed against a gleaming mug.
I resolve to stay alive to the mingling of mop fibers,

 the swell and the squeeze, the shining handprint slapped
against the tile. I resolve to stay alive. At night, I drag
empty seats to their corners, consider the screeches

of the drunks, dull the ache of my soles with the rough

and welcome caress of a stray cigarette. Mornings, I

stay out of the day’s way. I bring the cream.

I bring the check. I take the plates. I examine my face

in the flat of the knife. I hone my grief smaller,

into the simple shape of bared teeth. Amen.

©2017 Talley Kayser