Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ukraine, I crane

Ukrainian Waitress at the Pigeon Forge Chop House

Please don’t judge us solely
on our dinner selections
loaded Idaho baked potatoes
heart smart rice pilaf
crocked French onion soup
full orders of spicy Buffalo chicken wings
though on second thought
our nagging lamentations
over second guessed choices
photo spreads 
of this or that or the other thing 
blinding glare from slicky-slack
laminated menus-for-dummies
may be a revelation
that beats Gallup, Harris, even Nate Silver. 
Latvian or Polish, maybe Czech
but what kind of arcane
global department of weeding shunts
youth from former Soviet satellite states
to places like:
Branson, Missouri or Pigeon Forge, Tennessee or
the Wind Jammer Restaurant in Copper Harbor, Michigan
where a young woman fresh
from mainland China once took 
our order, unrelenting 
smiles on all faces
smiles for the menu
smiles for each other
smiles for the large woman inching
through the restroom door marked “Gulls”
smiles for the low ceilinged
gunmetal gray clouds
soldiering in from Superior
smiles for four old Finns gumming
pillowy cinnamon buns
smiles for the pair of lenses
missing from the stylish frames
on the beaming face
of our Mandarin speaking waitress
who, as it happened, was
weeks away from wrapping
up a summer stint in the Upper Peninsula
on her way to wintering
over in Chicago
a distinction without
much of a difference. 
“Ukrainian” you say
emphasis on the second
syllable, leveling me with a 2 x 4 
gaze, spade 
of European fatalism
furrowing your brow
“Lviv”, I wager
“seems nice”
followed by a breathless
drive-by of recent Ukrainian history:
a Russian father
perforated borders
a sister in Donetsk
you worry about day and night
here beneath the Aurora Borealis 
caloric motel gag 
of the Smoky Mountain foothills.
What is your opinion of Dolly Parton?
Have you toured the Titanic?
Do you ever get the itch
to stroll the Creation Museum?
questions I would like to ask 
but don’t. Instead 
I order some wine
the Chop House being
the only place around 
to get it by the glass
owing to Byzantine Baptist 
blue laws
that allow
should the mood take hold
one to buy a Mason jar
of pure Tennessee 
moonshine likker. 
“Santa Fe” I say
by way of suggestion
when your tenure here is up
but your heart
seems to be set on Denver. 
Oh well, at least it’s not
the U.P., I think as I take
my first sip
a toast and a smile
for a Slavic expat 
from a famished native. 

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