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Today's Specials


Why did I come tonight?
Too late: I've handed my keys
to some boy valet, polite

to the point of insolence.
He's so young, I'm so old—
really, why take offense

or even take the time,
the precious time, to reflect
that I was once like him,

appalled at the parade
of the hair-sprayed and the bald?
I tip him, scan the crowd,

and advance toward the cliques
of nerds, cheerleaders, potheads,
jocks, and Jesus freaks

I'd felt awkward with, and forty
years on, at last are peers:
yes, this is my party.

It's mid-June, and bright tents
are erected to shield our kind
against the elements,

which hardly could be milder.
A faint breeze stirs the scents
of sunscreen, crab cakes, beer,

cut grass, and gasoline.
I think I'll get a drink.
I begin to cross the lawn

(ducking that guy I dated
once or twice, and did he
see me? Do I seem ... dated?)

and spot, beside the wine bar,
a whiteboard with Today's
Specials
in black marker.

Why do I trust my eyes?
I can't read at this distance.
I'm nearer now—and surprise,

here's what it really says:
In Memoriam. What
genius arranged for this?

How thoughtful and horrible.
Different hands have come
as they once did at school

to diagram the sentence
of those who left us first.
More like taking attendance:

names, dates, an excuse
for absence when it's known—
cancer, accident. Who's

that, Bob Rogers? Bob.
My funny, uncle-faced pal,
pride of the Drama Club,

who tended to land the role
of banker or judge because
he had a middle-aged middle?

Dead at thirty-seven.
He probably looked the same
as he had at seventeen,

while most of us lived to stare
for decades at the stage
makeup in the mirror

that gave back our true age.
Bob Rogers. I played your kid.
Our names met on a page

in playbills kept awhile,
tossed away—just as I turn
now from the other special

names for today, and scout
for anyone to talk with
to drive the wisdom out.


Mary Jo Salter

Southwest Review

Volume 101, Number 4


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