Barbara Gabriel, Message to a Waitress’s Daughter

Barbara Gabriel

It’s the way your leather-belted, straight from the hip body
skitters down the row of counter stools, past
boys’ hands hovering and old men longing
separated from other girls by skin and perception

that urges my lips, puckered at the point
of your mouth, to slide breathless up that unruffled
cheek to find your ear and cry

Overthrow those boys by zipless coup.
Shed the girls who hang from your hunter’s belt
like trophies. Dodge the traplines
old ones set into this land and nail their songs to the wall.

You are the shape-shifter
a myth buster, the break-my-heart-in-a-million-ways
grifter. Bring a flamethrower to the last supper
you eat at this diner.

Then just when the sky blackens beyond stars
turn your pockets inside out and shake the dust free. Don’t pause
to pack even one stone. Drop that compass
in the deepest well along the way.

You are my moon landing
my code-breaker, the Universe-is-expanding
oh Mama, can I ride a Star-raker.

A put ‘em in a vise and squeeze
till they ache-er, so Go

write poetry instead of letters home.
Master the traveler’s arts
and feed your own fire. Make love
from strong opinion.

Cast your precise shadow in this gloom
and tell time to pass on by- you will not carry it.

Author’s Comment: “Message to a Waitress’s Daughter” came out of the continuing conversation I have with myself about women’s lives and the choices made that get them to where they are. I find that as I get older, many of my heroes are women younger than I. None of them have asked for my advice. “Message…” is about recognizing a sister-traveler along the women’s road and urging her to journey on in pursuit of herself.

Bio: Barbara Gabriel is a poet, writer and salvage artist who has been gathering writing material for fifty years while impersonating a chef, cruise director, ice cream scooper, sailor, child advocate, landscaper, package designer, dive master, log cabin builder, and a really bad waitress. She grew up in Minnesota along Highway 61 and then ran away to sea to travel, live and eat her way through the Americas, Turkey, North Africa, Europe, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. She has been published in the online journal of topical poetry “Poetry24”, in the “American Society: What Poets See” anthology (FutureCycle Press) and in Wild Goose Poetry Review. She currently calls Portland, Oregon home.

32 thoughts on “Barbara Gabriel, Message to a Waitress’s Daughter

    • Thanks, Karen! High praise for me considering that each time I hear or read one of your poems, I think “Damn, I wish I’d written that!”

  1. What a powerful poem for women. I understand so well that need to pass on to younger women what we have learned and hope to make a difference. I am so happy Scott published this poem here. I love it.

    • Perfect, Glenda. And that’s what you do as well: pass on wisdom to younger women (and not-such-younger-women!) Thank you for your support!

  2. Barbara, this poem, from the first to the end, moves with the head-long belief-in-self of a dangerous storm. You are using language as it should be used. Congratulations!

  3. Rebellious, moving, optimistic – “write poetry instead of letters home” – a wonderful phrase. Thank you for sharing your poetry!

  4. Beautifully written, Barb. I like the message to get out there and live life, take the chances. You live your own philosophy.

  5. So many great lines here. No wasted words at all. My favorite:
    “Master the traveler’s arts
    and feed your own fire.”

    I can really see this scene and the girl hovering on the knife edge of possibility.

  6. I really like this poem, Barb! “Tell time to pass on by – you will not carry it.” I love that line. The images you evoke are really powerful.

  7. I too have re-read this poem over several days. Hard to improve on the comments above. Vivid, cutting language, like a concentrated dose of Joyce Carol Oates. Keep up the great work!

    • Wow! Thanks, Dana. For stopping by, for reading and re-reading and for your thoughtful comments. Very much appreciated.

  8. Well Barb, I can certainly echo many of the comments above, but I am especially fond of the stanza that ends with:

    “Bring a flamethrower to the last supper
    you eat at this diner.”

    The speed which with the words shoot out – “the break-my-heart-in-a-million-ways
    grifter.” – just captures the heat and fury of this loving poem.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Tim! This poem’s language zipped from my pen as fast as it reads, so I felt fortunate at the time to have a pen and paper nearby. (Okay, I always have a pen & paper nearby.) And thank you for understanding that, through the fury, this is, in essence a loving poem.

    • Thank you, Phebe. That line came in the rewrite (or the re-re-rewrite) and it wasn’t until the word I’d initially chosen became ‘stone’ that I knew it was finished.

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