DR (1949 / Los Angeles, California)

The Ensuing Voyage [worker’s Poem]

In the night I washed dishes for Rosetti.
While the busboy filled and refilled the sink
I watched Rosetti
butchering and broiling,
eating standing up, working
continuously, with no sense of harassment, or giving
the illusion of that sense—chopping, sautéing,
smoking cigarettes, testing the mousse,
tasting every sauce, quieting
the alarmed maitre de, coaxing
the produce-man on the phone
to deliver to him first—
as he sweated into his beard and glasses,
stained with the fragrance of lamb shanks
and rosemary—whimsical, solemn, anointed
by what he worked with—not talking,
not wasting a branch,
a slice, a spoonful—Rosetti
worked continuously, symphonically,
peremptorily, the veins thick along his forearms,
sweeping the fallen wrappers from his path.
For Rosetti, I carried flour sacks
from the storeroom, stacked
crates outside the back door,
so that he might show me
the way to use a cleaver
or how he mixed herbs
into broths.
For Rosetti, I said I was glad
to wash dishes. For Rosetti,
I lied. All the next night
until he showed me
the way to cut garlic
I struggled about whether to drown that lie
under the soapy ladles and spoons.
And that second night,
standing outside the apartment,
the June sky deep
with lucid constellations,
blue and orange petals
of the Birds of Paradise
glowing near the laundry room light
—and the sudden cold breeze
chilling my hands made raw by water,
blowing in
to my stagnant sails.

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