From My Commonplace Book - 36

[For those who have trouble reading large blocks of text, I have, below the text in original formatting, broken up the long paragraph of the prose poem.]


Young Armless Man in the Barbecue Restaurant

by Phyllis Koestenbaum


The hostess seats a girl and a young man in a short-sleeve sport shirt with one arm missing below the shoulder. I'm at the next table with my husband and son, Andy's Barbecue Restaurant, an early evening in July, chewing a boneless rib eye, gulping a dark beer ordered from the cocktail waitress, a nervous woman almost over the hill, whose high heel sandals click back and forth from the bar to the dining room joined to the bar by an open arch. A tall heavy cook in white hat is brushing sauce on the chicken and spareribs rotating slowly on a squeaking spit. Baked potatoes heat on the oven floor. The young man is eating salad with his one hand. He and his girl are on a date. He has a forties' movie face, early Van Johnson before the motorcycle accident scarred his forehead. He lost the arm recently. Hard as it is, it could be worse. I would even exchange places with him if I could. I want to exchange places with the young armless man in the barbecue restaurant. He would sit at my table and I would sit at his. After dinner I would go in his car and he would go in mine. I would live in his house and work at his job and he would live in my house and do what I do. I would be him dressing and undressing and he would be me dressing and undressing. Our bill comes. My husband leaves the tip on the tray; we take toothpicks and mints and walk through the dark workingman's bar out to the parking lot still lit by the sky though the streetlights have come on as they do automatically at the same time each night. We drive our son, home for the summer, back to his job at the bookstore. As old Italians and Jews say of sons from five to fifty, he's a good boy. I have worked on this paragraph for more than two years.


Young Armless Man in the Barbecue Restaurant

The hostess seats a girl and a young man in a short-sleeve sport shirt with one arm missing below the shoulder.

I'm at the next table with my husband and son, Andy's Barbecue Restaurant, an early evening in July, chewing a boneless rib eye, gulping a dark beer ordered from the cocktail waitress, a nervous woman almost over the hill, whose high heel sandals click back and forth from the bar to the dining room joined to the bar by an open arch.

A tall heavy cook in white hat is brushing sauce on the chicken and spareribs rotating slowly on a squeaking spit. Baked potatoes heat on the oven floor.

The young man is eating salad with his one hand. He and his girl are on a date. He has a forties' movie face, early Van Johnson before the motorcycle accident scarred his forehead. He lost the arm recently. Hard as it is, it could be worse.

I would even exchange places with him if I could. I want to exchange places with the young armless man in the barbecue restaurant. He would sit at my table and I would sit at his.

After dinner I would go in his car and he would go in mine. I would live in his house and work at his job and he would live in my house and do what I do. I would be him dressing and undressing and he would be me dressing and undressing.

Our bill comes. My husband leaves the tip on the tray; we take toothpicks and mints and walk through the dark workingman's bar out to the parking lot still lit by the sky though the streetlights have come on as they do automatically at the same time each night.

We drive our son, home for the summer, back to his job at the bookstore. As old Italians and Jews say of sons from five to fifty, he's a good boy.

I have worked on this paragraph for more than two years.


Phyllis Koestenbaum (American, born 1930) explores memory in her innovative collection of prose poems Doris Day and Kitschy Memories. Read an interview with her and see two more prose poems from Doris Day at

http://www.nycbigcitylit.com/contents/intrvukoestenbaumpt1.html

Comments

Hi Merry,
I've just caught up again with your poems and prose and thank you for introducing another very interesting and very skilful writer. It's a form I'm not overly familiar with so a pleasure to read.

(Hope the weather's more comfortable now).
 
Dear Enid, thank you, as always, for taking the time and energy to comment.

As for the weather -- oh no. What a summer. But I feel foolish complaining about the heat to someone who used to live in South Africa.
 
Hello, Ka'ehu. I'm glad to meet you. Thanks for your comment on Phyllis Koestenbaum.
 

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