Two Indian waiters in snug tuxedos

sit on steps a few doors down from


their deserted restaurant—I just passed it—

sharing a smoke and quiet talk, talk that could


be about the coming end of their run there,

about what other jobs might appear, about


whom they should call or visit:

a strategy session.


Yet so spare and emphatic is their conversation,

its silences inhabited by blue clouds of smoke,


that between their middle-aged declarations

of determination they each may be feeling


an unsparing circle closing in; feeling the

dread approach of the night they fear most:


the night they take their tuxedos off and

never have cause to put them back on—


no more trips to the dry cleaners, no more

updating the bow tie; instead, back to wearing


the loose, patterned shirtsleeves of cab drivers

pulling 12-hour shifts spelled only when parked


to eat curry out of plastic containers from the Bengali deli;

hours logged making drop-offs at trendy, Pan-Asian restaurants


whose young, stylishly dressed doormen—the age of

their own sons?—come right to the cab to open then—


after the fares step out—turn away while

slamming the door.


Mark Belair

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit

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