Curse | Literary Arts | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Waiting for steak and fries
beneath this dining room’s cold light, I look on
as Angelita, the stocky Paiute waitress, hauls
ales and elk burgers to tables of Germans
touring Utah parks on Beemer bikes.

It took until senior year for me to balance
a full tray of steaming chow, elbow wobbling
until I learned to spread fingers wide, hoisting
the fiberglass oval on the level plain
of my palm, held steady above my right shoulder.

And when the boss said to hustle, I wore
a ready smile and worked without pause, buffing
lipstick from wine glass rims, scooping up
what was left behind — spoons and mugs half-full of cold coffee,
chicken bones and change, once a slimy denture.

Delivering dumb calories
to hungry mouths is to consider
the flocks of fried fowl,
the braised and broiled herds I’ve lugged,
three plates at a time

on one of my skinny limbs,
and to wonder if it’s worth sharing
with this hardworking woman
how I measured out my tired body by the decade,
one arm grown longer than the other.

- Fred Shaw

Fred Shaw is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and of Carlow University, where he received his master’s of fine arts degree. He teaches writing and literature at Point Park University and Carlow University.  He is the author of the chapbook Argot (Finishing Line Press). His poems have been published in 5AM, Poet Lore, Brilliant Corners, Briar Cliff Review, Permafrost, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh City Paper, where he currently reviews books. In a parallel life, he has also worked in the service industry for the past 25 years. He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and rescued hound dog. Many writers featured in Chapter & Verse are guests of Prosody, produced by Jan Beatty and Ellen Wadey. Prosody airs every Saturday morning on WESA 90.5 FM.

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