William Heath

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Artwork by Gene McCormick

At the Diner

The waitress with a glass eye
winks at me, calls me hon,
serves up a slice of cherry pie
as big as the plate. 

          One look
at her face and I know waiting
tables at a roadside restaurant
isn’t where she wants to be
by this time in her life. 

she got here probably had
something to do with a man
not being the kind of guy
he was supposed to be. 

truck drivers tickle her palm
when they tip, offer to take her
anywhere her heart desires. 

Remembering the Fifties

There are five of us in all:
Ozzie, Harriet, me, sis, and our dog, Spot.Artwork by Gene McCormick
A dutiful wifey with a favorite charity
and a pure devotion to hubby’s ambitions,
Mom is homemaker, Dad breadwinner,
their dream is to live happily ever after
somewhere in suburbia.  A woman’s role
is to provide an emotional outlet for
her man, a comfy hearth where he can
gird his loins for another day of fierce
struggle in the marketplace.  Dad
tells Mom that his production goal
for her is two boys, two girls.

Men want women who will bolster
their egos, flip their eggs, and make
their beds.  Girls take cooking, date
appeal, marriage, personal etiquette. 
Boys study carpentry, auto mechanics,
metalwork.  Sis gets an A in home ec.,
I flunk shop.  At college she majors
in marriage.  In those days Italian women
set the tone with their big breasts and
emotional outbursts.  In swirl dress
with Singer vacuum Mom, the happy
housewife, does her chores until the day
Dad runs off with his secretary.

At the Commune

At Better Living Through
Chemistry, aka Maggie’s Farm,
I put a tab under my tongue,
wait for the world to change:
everybody tokes then talks
without exhaling as if
their strained voices were
rehearsing death-bed speeches.

The women bake bread,
brown rice and beans
a typical meal, barefoot kids
named Lucy in the Sky
with Diamonds, Rosemary,
Thyme, Ruby Tuesday,
and Give Peace a Chance,
sport Day-Glo painted faces. 

The plan is if women
stop shaving their legs
men will treat them
as equals, not merely
as sex objects.—more
or less this works.

They put up a Maypole,
dance naked around it
to tunes of wood flutes
and dulcimers. Everyone
into cleaning their karma,
not washing the dishes.

In lotus position all day
he throws the I Ching.
A joss stick burning
by the waterbed, she likes
fucking to other-worldly
sounds of singing whales.


William Heath has published three poetry books: The Walking Man, Steel Valley Elegy, and Going Places; a chapbook, Night Moves in Ohio; three novels: The Children Bob Moses Led (winner of the Hackney Award), Devil Dancer, and Blacksnake's Path; a work of history, William Wells and the Struggle for the Old Northwest (winner of two Spur Awards and the Oliver Hazard Perry Award); and a collection of interviews, Conversations with Robert Stone.  He lives in Annapolis.  www.williamheathbooks.com