from “Sardi’s”
Fri, 04/03/2009

Having nodded hello to the maitre d’ I pass

in rubber yellow rain overalls and gortex boots

over red carpeted floors stained with Manhattans

silverware sparkles on Table 6l the celebrity nook

for the soft-spoken tycoon whose name’s on the truck

that delivers that thin paper The Times is printed on

and who likes a bowl of ice cubes to freshen the Lipton tea

A bald waiter who silently silver spoons the cubes

wonders how old Mr. Baldwin's wife is

and how much does he actually carry around in cash...

With a bicycle helmet under one arm, walking to the back

room I check the waiter rotation listed on wall

in strange calligraphic curvy ancient penmanship

of Agron who grew up on a Mediterranean island, my name

is there and I’m relieved, upstairs next to the narrow locker

I stop Ricky from sitting on a three-legged chair

he calls me “brother” and embraces me with massive arms…

                                   …

Spare bowties hang from magnetic hooks in my locker

Change into black pants with attached suspenders

rake my hair into place in the spotted mirror

wondering about the 40 years Franco passed

dressing every day at a locker next to mine

and squeeze past the day crew smoking

waiting to punch the iron time clock at 4 p.m.

never discussing their rights or potential as workers

Steamy caldrons, vegetable vats, chef shouts,

a din of dark-skinned kitchen workers in white uniforms

and pointy paper hats chopping dinner, chef taunts, more shouts…

                               …

Table 22 says there’s a ferry run Weehawken to 38th St

with nice view of river and sky

The conversation is usually polite

I tap fingertips to the merengue radio

as I order drinks at the service bar

twirl a peppermill in lonely glittering

air and ask, “Crushed

pepper?” to Table 21...a lot of people wearing casual

clothes today, male ponytails, sneakers, the most racially

integrated day I’ve seen in months

It’s spring