How Simple Steps Become a Dance
by Sara Ries Dziekonski
What does Grandma think about
now that she is old? She sent me a letter
addressed to Sara Free Verse Ries.
She reported mostly about the weather,
but she did write: I don’t like the peace sign you drew
on the last letter. It looks like a broken cross.
Lauri scrubs food off her apron
as I eat pepperoncinis in the Pie Room.
In my dream last night, she says,
it was a full house and all the customers
were glaring, waving their hands,
raising empty glasses, stamping feet,
pointing to all the things they need.
We smooth our aprons.
I dream that too, I say,
and we each pick up a coffee pot,
fill what we can.
I wrote the words knowing the great distance
between Buffalo and Grandma’s delicate hands in Tampa.
I wrote, knowing my words do not have wings
and I will have to drop the letter into the mouth
of a blue box. For you, my grandmother,
I drew hearts, only hearts.
Why do you always want to blend everything? Dad asks
at a Poetry and Dinner Night in the kitchen of our diner.
He has filled the plates with meatloaf and mashed potatoes
and is waiting for me to serve them. I’m by the twirling steam,
I kiss you, Thaddeus, after you’ve been sailing,
our cats asleep on our aprons from the morning shift.
You smell like wind and water.
Let me stay here, right here.
To be a waitress—a good waitress—
is to let thank-you’s slide off your tongue until
it is not just thank you for a tip or a reply to Have a nice day,
until they become a wish for the people outside this window,
that they will share umbrellas in the good rain, and for my own two feet:
make them a small sailboat, and when I close my eyes,
I want an old couch found
on the side of the road
with cushions that sag
from holding the full weight of people—
Maybe then I could rest.
Grandma, after you flew back to Florida at the end of summer,
I decided to eat an unstirred fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt,
the way you do, saving the best for last
no sweetness to lighten the sting of the sour white.
And it’s cold and long like winter.
I never know if you’ll make it to next summer
to spend afternoons at our diner and sip lemonade
in dresses brighter than wildflowers.
We’re shoved to another season:
I dig through bins
for thick things to cover me.
Leaves watercolor the streets.
I mistake stems for worms
on my walk to visit a friend.
Her hands circle a mug. She says
Summer went by so fast.
I take another sip of tea, ask
Is this how life happens?
This steady, this fast?
Grandma, teach me to play piano
so I can press the keys and learn the sounds,
whole sounds, when they’re not wearing words.
I’m a good waitress, Lauri says.
I quit my last job because the owner said
waitresses are a dime a dozen.
He doesn’t understand waitress rhythm, I say,
how simple steps become a dance.
The writers stare
journals on laps,
coffee on stands. Clock hands
it’s just snow and the number of breaths it takes
for a snowflake to land
on parking meters, trees,
Sara Ries Dziekonski is the co-founder of Poetry Midwives Editing Services. Her first book, Come In, We’re Open, won the 2009 Stevens Poetry Manuscript Competition. Her chapbooks include Snow Angels on the Living Room Floor (Finishing Line Press 2018) and Marrying Maracuyá (Main Street Rag 2021), which won the Cathy Smith Bowers Chapbook Competition. Her poems have appeared in Slipstream, LABOR, 2River View, among others.