Out Back at the All-Night Diner

The assistant baker, shapely
in her chef’s whites, squeezes
past the rack of fresh rolls
cooling in the doorway
to stand in the alley by the stacks
of plastic milk crates & listen
to the robins waking, the occasional
rattle of the manhole cover out front
when a car goes over it, & the quiet
breath of the prep cook drawing
on his cigarette, pah . . . fff . . .

They are both still replaying
their conversation from the last break,
two hours before: how in less
than a month, she will move
to the next state for a job
that will let her work during the day
at a desk in a tall glass rectangle
next to the interstate, put
her college degree to use. I’d do
the same,
the prep cook told her.

As for himself, he’s decided
he’s tired of preparation.
The owner has promised
to give him some hours behind
the line, where the action is —
not to mention (& he didn’t)
the waitresses. Chilly out.
I’m getting goose pimples,

says the baker. The rolls harden
in their metal beds. Dawn settles
over everything like fine flour.