Every day Marisella wears dancer’s pants.
Black—like crows lined up on the wires between
houses, between work trailers, their eavesdropping
feet vibrating with voices lying, voices calling
union men for jobs, men calling girlfriends
and wives calling girlfriends who are the loves
of their husbands. Black—like nights with no moon,
mountains with no snow, water with no whitecaps…
Marisella’s everyday uniform, apron to match,
ticket book and pen tucked down one side, tips down
Dreams don’t always happen as planned. Fathers lose
jobs, brothers lose hot-rod races, medical bills pile up,
and family is family. Marisella wears ballet flats with gel inserts,
her only luxury, for eight-hour back-breakers, bums a smoke
when she can, brings home every penny. Her beloved movies
went the way of her boyfriend—no empathy, no understanding
that church will carry them through, no choice, no worries.
Icicles of light stab the corners of the café. Marisella
takes another order, mixes more iceberg, muscle memory
of obligation like her smile. She needs no pity, only
40 hours a week, a bus pass and medical insurance.
She does pliés at the bus stop because she can.
Well behaved and well-intentioned, she comes home
each night exhausted, kisses her mama, looks in on her brother
to judge on what scale of depression he sits tonight,
and she’s done. A clean pair of pants for tomorrow,
dreams that give her hope, another day, another day.
Vanishing taillights to take her home. She exhales.
Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and a Best of the Net nominee. Current chapbooks are “The Coincidence of Castles” from Glass Lyre Press, and “Romance and Rust” from Blue Horse Press. “Down Anstruther Way” is forthcoming from FutureCycle Press. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).