Four Women

Four Women

The young barista applies
eye-makeup with great care
each morning, early, before
the first coffee-drinker awakes.

The older cashier at the food store
has dyed her hair a bright blond.
She takes her cigarette-breaks
outside the cafe. She once said,
“It comes back around, you know,
if you’re kind—it comes back
around to you.”

From behind the machine,
the barista now watches the older
cashier. The realtor wears
nylons and high heels all day.
She must never appear to be
impatient or weary. There must
never be the smallest flaw
in her clothing. Her eyes
and mouth have hardened.

The blond cashier, smoking,
watches her get into
an expensive car, which
is red and freshly polished.

The high school student
with brown hair that was dyed
black but is now splashed
with green walks past the red
car talking to her phone. Her
clothes don’t fit, aren’t
meant to, and sunlight shines
on the small of her back
and the dimpled top of the crack
between her buttocks. The realtor
and the blond cashier notice
all of this in one glance.

The cigarette’s snuffed out,
the red car’s engine starts,
the barista’s already preparing
a beverage for the talking girl—
something with a lot of sugar
and cream and chocolate and
caffeine—and the talking girl,
who is a woman, now notices,
maybe for the first time,
the subtlety of the barista’s
eye-shade, and with one hand
now tries to pull up the tight,
low-waisted jeans, which slip
back down, and the barista, letting
some steam out of the machine,
says, “Here you go!”

hans ostrom 2012