New Girl at the Dairy Queen

by Barry Harris

"When riding on a boat, if one watches the shore, one may assume that the shore is moving. But watching the boat directly, one knows that it is the boat that moves."

The one who wasn't there last month.
The one with the short-cropped hair
with all that hardware on her ear
and metal in her tongue.
Not that any of this is important now, except
that she wasn't the one I was expecting.

For 3 minutes I watch her, there
for the ragged family in front of me.
The one with the snot-nosed boy
held tightly in his father's arms.
The one with the mother chasing
a pink-sneakered girl
chanting something about sprinkles.

The poor are with us in line always, I think,
yet it is not always so with you and me.

I step into her boat.
The eternal shore winks in and out as always.

For another 3 minutes she is present too
with me, even as her manager leaves
for the 71st street store to manage some new crisis,
rattles a litany of instructions
to no one in particular:
lock up according to procedure
and change the dishwater this time.

The new girl replies
already changed and the sanitizer started
then quietly and to no one in particular,
all is under control.
Not boasting, just simplicity for the taking—
assurance, the way a monk in the forest
sees grace notes at sunset.

There is a calm in her eyes.
Is this all it takes?
To be present for 3 minutes.
And then do it again?

There is a calm in her eyes
as she slides the sundaes into my hands,
a small butterscotch into my left
and a small hot fudge, for you, into my right.

A member of the Writer's Center of Indiana, Barry Harris is editor of the Tipton Poetry Journal and has published one poetry collection, Something At The Center, and one chapbook, The Soul At Work: Poems From The Office. Barry lives in Zionsville, Indiana and works as a systems analyst for Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis. His poetry has recently appeared in Lily, Subtle Tea, The Centrifugal Eye, Flutter Poetry Journal and The Houston Literary Review.