As long as I have a dollar

by June Labyzon

Walking into a local Japanese restaurant,
music barely audible
You look at me and say,
“it bothers me when ethnic
restaurants don’t play music
of their own ethnicity."
I mention a few others whose
music themes match their menus.
You say, “that’s because they
don’t know what they want to
And I smile,
not thinking of restaurants
or music at all.
My Uncle Pepe used to say
“as long as I have a dollar
in my pocket, I will eat a
hot meal." That was
during a time when restaurants
didn't play music. At least not
the diners and greasy spoons
who would take my uncle’s
dollar. They knew what
they were; didn’t want to
be anything else.
We’d spend our quarters
buying Sabrett hot dogs
from the hot dog wagon loaded
with mustard and those tomato
lathered onions you can only
get in the North East. Washing
them down with Orange Nehi,
we’d walk up to The Bergenline
and wait outside for my uncle to finish
his hot meal. Pressing our noses
against the rain spotted window,
we'd tap on the glass trying to
get his attention.
There he'd be sitting in a glitzy
red booth, the dollar spread
out neatly in front of a cup
of coffee.
He’d throw a quarter in the juke
box; 10 selections for
25 cents. We'd press our
ears closer to hear. Music of his own
choosing. The waitress
would slide an overflowing
mess of gravy and meatloaf
in front of him. A hot meal
that anchored him to the
sofa for the rest of the day
and night.
I tell you this story,
as the Turkish music
drowns out the sucking
sounds of Udon noodles
between our lips.
You look into my eyes and repeat
“It really bothers me when ethnic
restaurants don’t play music
of their own ethnicity.”
I reach out, touch your hand,
let it stay for just a moment.
beige on bronze
Playfully I slip a quarter
between your fingers.
It spins on the table as
you abruptly pull away.

Somehow I know you weren't
talking about music at all.


Posted on 10/23/2014
Copyright © 2021 June Labyzon

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Coleman Demiurge on 10/24/14 at 12:57 PM

Beautifully painful... I adore it. The way the memory of Uncle Pepe ultimately weaves its way into the poem's finale really is incredibly well done. I am envious. And the ending itself carries a hearty wallop. It's evocative, it's haunting, it's wonderful... Superb work.

Posted by Chris Sorrenti on 10/26/14 at 12:14 AM

Well written story poem on dining out and possible accompanying music. I was going to say that many of those greasy spoons, at least back in the day, had those table mounted juke boxes, if not the larger variety in a corner somewhere.

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