by Cindy Milwe
After the lunch shift, I hid
in the restroom or went down
to the dock to suck what was left
of a lobster claw, use my teeth
on a crab leg, pull a mussel
from its blue-ringed shell.
In the bus station, next to trays
of dirty glasses, I kept my own
butter—drawn and golden—to dip
the fried fish I found, snack in secret
between the ketchup and the steak knives.
I didn’t care who had been there
before me, whose scaly hands
or bloody gums had made their mark
on what I thought to be a perk
for all those hours I scraped cole slaw
into a trash heap, wiped beer
from old barstools where people left
razor clams and napkins streaked
by tartar sauce. They didn’t know
I took their oysters and shrimp
into my mouth like new lovers,
wrapped their leftovers under my shirt
to bring down to the shore. At dusk—
no thought of the lemon wedges I forgot,
the coffee that came too late, the lost
stained check—I listened to the lapping
of The Sound, felt the shrunken eye
of the sun, watched the pink trace of light
disappear above the ocean’s lip.
Cindy Milwe has had work published in many journals and magazines, including 5 AM, Alaska Quarterly Review, Poetry East, Poet Lore, The William and Mary Review, Flyway, Talking River Review, and The Georgetown Review, among others. She also has poems in two anthologies: Another City: Writing from Los Angeles (City Lights, 2001) and Changing Harm to Harmony: The Bullies and Bystanders Project (Marin Poetry Center Press, 2015). Last year, her poem “Legacy” was selected as the First Place Winner of the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing’s Parent/Writer Fellowship.