by Parker Sterling
And then there was the job off Southwest Freeway
pushing lap dances, and Jell-O shooters.
My tray orbiting above, I’d do the astroglide
across a room of ties and toupees. On stage,
Rosario, Marta, Kit, or Jamie wrapped
a pole and climbed as Liz and Nikki
dropped the needle, the bass, and the sweet talk
while the rest of us girls waited for the drinks
and the sloppy-drunk spending to kick in.
And then the prep work at the Galleria eatery,
slicing, whisking, gutting, mincing as quickly
as her swollen, menopausal fingers let her, cutting the help
back, and down — the latest batch — with just as much celerity.
The more-than-slightly sauced sous chef
flambéing a chocolate-dipped cigarette over a gas burner
then laughing before unleashing a foot-long knife
on the stuffed, contorted chicken-effigy of the owner.
And then there was the carpet cleaning job
and the city-wide rides from Fifth Ward to Katy, Sugar Land,
Bellaire, Willowbrook, my third-job boss driving,
smoking, drinking all the way, twitching on the inhale
and bitching on the exhale, one crooked finger hooked
on a Styrofoam cup full of cold black coffee stain-stuck
to the van’s sun-faded and fissuring dashboard.
Inside the labyrinth of the vast spatial palatial
three-story-one-income house of someone born
with “a golden horseshoe up his ass,”
we’re tasked with sexing the kilim’s sides free
of the Irish Wolfhound’s willful dander, and coaxing
the tipsy houseguest’s cabernet calamity loose
from Mrs. V’s $22,000 tightly woven rug.
In the air on Continental 226, my body is locked
into an upright position. With just enough money
to meet a friend back home, I am leaving Houston
and all my jobs.
My finger touches the framed sky above what is,
now was, a momentary isthmus.