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She Tends Bar

May 12, 2009

while she waits for a man
she hopes will make his way
north, slip across the border
from wherever the trains
derailed him. She tends bar
while she waits on a man
who slides a tip across the counter,
a man who studies her
as she wipes beer and sweat
from the counter, who spies
as she tucks her tip
next to a baby’s teething ring.

She hurries a tray of beer
to a table wreathed in smoke.
Two men lean back, tracing
the curve of her hips, their eyes
working the rise of her skirt.

In the way some men bet the dogs,
others the cockfights,
others that the moon holds rain
to spoil next week’s work,
the man pomaded with Dixie Peach
bets odds tonight he’ll cup
the front of the barmaid’s blouse.

The woman who tends bar
bites her tongue as she walks away,
feeling dangerous towards this man
who earlier offered to walk her home,
who swore it would be a privilege
to change her ceiling bulb
and unstop her sink besides.

Diana Garcia from When Living Was A Labor Camp, published by the University of Arizona Press, 2000

Publisher Comments: “…In this, Garcia’s first collection of poems, she takes a bittersweet look back at the migrant labor camps of California and offers a tribute to the people who toiled there. Writing from the heart of California’s San Joaquin Valley, she catapults the reader into the lives of the campesinos with their daily joys and sorrows. Bold, political, and familial…”

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