The Shalimar, Again

My parents flick paper footballs back
And forth on the table top.
A folded receipt propels off
of Dad’s fingernails, just dodging the carroty coleslaw.

Table for five? A booth meant for four.
When Mom doesn’t want to mold cold meatballs,
we stumble into the Shalimar to take our place,
in the booth in the back.

The white-haired waiter with one eyelid permanently shut places
five glasses of water in front of us. I languidly flip through
pages of a sticky laminated menu,
No need to read lists of
Gefilte fish, souvlaki, and salmon dishes.

We can easily order for one-another.
My brother will stutter through a side of un-buttered toast,
chicken fingers, no-
maybepancakeswaitchickenfingers,
and the sawdust chocolate chip cookie.

The brusque waitress with one grown-up son in college
and one big girl at home, but she’s proud of her,
quickly fixes her grey bangs while skillfully tipping the burnt-coffee pot.

Wheelchairs and women named Pearl and Ruth
with drooping, bejeweled ears nest in the restaurant
and cluck and coo over nosh,
and none of these Queens biddies
can ever really heeya one-anotha.

But when Grandma Jojo and Papa Sid
would sit in the midst
of the spring chickens,
Pittsburgh could be heard.

Her first words surely must have been
Hawn, how are yew?
And every waiter felt so worthy,
as they picked out the
least crumbled crackers in plastic for
their favorite table.

When she died, they ran to clear the back room,
this time,
for more than a family of five.
We cursed, we cried, we ate waffles, vanilla ice cream, sprinkles and bacon bits,
Broken-heartedly breaking kosher.

Tonight,
the food is
what the food is but dad’s tip
is always too generous.
He calls them good people
And his bitter coffee tastes like honey.

 

 

Erin Krebs likes to spend her free time with her older sister, Jeannie, thinking of cute names for pug puppies. Top contenders now include Waffles, Professor Pancake, Wrinkles, and Tank. Any better ideas can be emailed to Erin.Krebs@yale.edu.

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