The Stephens’ Sweet Shop, 1949.
Bald Walt at work, “butterflying” hot dogs—
splitting them lengthwise for the griddle
and serving them up in hamburger buns—
while Boo, his smiling, slightly anxious wife
(a rigid perm and excess, too-bright lipstick),
provides to teen-aged guzzlers at the counter
and in an opium den of wooden booths
their sugary poisons, milkshakes thick as tar
and Coca-Cola conjured from syrup and fizz.

A smog of smoke. A jingle at the back
of pinball being deftly played. And through
the clamorous and hormone-laden haze
your slick voice, nasal yet operatic, sliced
and soared, assuring us of finding our
desire, at our old rendezvous. Today
I read you died, at ninety-three. Your voice
was oil, and we the water it spread on,
forming a rainbow film—our futures as
we felt them, dreamily, back there and then.

This Issue

May 31, 2007