Understanding

Robert Stewart

At Romanelii Grill
all the bartenders are women.
I drink a beer and go
to Michaelangelo’s
where they are women, too,
only younger—
They comb their hair between draws.When the summons comes
I am forced to see a lawyer.
I choose one with red hair
who says she’ll be in my corner.
The law is not sexist.But my wife and I understand
each other, I say.
Just tell me your side, she says,
then she sets a beer on her desk
and I remember everything.Listen, I say, listen to this.

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Robert Stewart’s previous books include The Narrow Gate: Writing, Art & Values (essays, Sewing House Books); Outside Language (essays, Helicon Nine Editions), a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Awards and winner of the 2004 Thorpe Menn Award; and Plumbers (poems, BkMk Press). He teaches in the Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing and Media Arts at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he also edits New Letters magazine, BkMk Press, and New Letters on the Air public-radio series. The American Society of Magazine Editors has awarded him a National Magazine Award for editorial achievement.

“Let [this] poetry explore you. You’ll find Leonardo’s angel on a dirt road in Missouri and a multitude of Magritte geographies flashing inside you.”
—Willis Barnstone

“A gritty, hard-earned faith in the human spirit in the small, sustaining rewards of labor are the core of Working Class. Robert Stewart’s careful attention to daily details illuminate his journey.”
—Christopher Buckley

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