When she takes off her backpack, I can see
that the back of her coat is torn. She sets
her pack down on a barstool, unzips it
as our waiter passes her cans of tomatoes,
soup stock—five times she places
each can in her pack, no words, the one giving,
the one taking, casual yet practiced,
then zips up her pack, slings it over her.
I’ve been staring. I return to my locally sourced,
organic, sustainable cashew nut smoothie,
so thick I have to eat it with a spoon, arugula salad,
watermelon radish, a pickled egg shredded
over the top like confetti—and I snatch
another glance at the woman whose face
is a featureless plain, I now see, as she turns
to leave, retying her head scarf, straightening
the knot, overdressed for the California weather—
heavy coat, a scarf, rubber boots caked
with mud, though it’s not raining.
Wendy Drexler’s third poetry collection, Before There Was Before, was published by Iris Press in 2017. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Barrow Street, J Journal, Lily Poetry Review, Nimrod, Pangyrus, Prairie Schooner, Salamander, South Florida Poetry Review, Sugar House, The Atlanta Review, The Mid-American Review, The Hudson Review, The Threepenny Review, and the Valparaiso Poetry Review, among others. Her work has been featured on Verse Daily and WBUR’s Cognoscenti; and in numerous anthologies. She’s been the poet in residence at New Mission High School in Hyde Park, MA, since 2018, and is programming co-chair for the New England Poetry Club.