For the Salad Girl at the Island Inn

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They keep the aprons folded, clean
and stacked on plank-board shelves. Clock in,
take down a bleached-soft parcel: strings
cross tight in back. Young cooks throw knives
at the doorjamb; cartons of melons lay still
in the fridge. Place your stool beside two buckets,
prop your feet astride the slops and peel
fifty pounds of russets, Idahoes
from sacks trussed up with netting, twine.

Your waist: delicious, aproned, snug.
Who could fail to notice you
are young and beautiful, deserve
more than the cool slip of speckled
skin, the sharp knife? The bare potato
drops whole in cool water, pale
beside the considered slope of your calves.

Each creak and slam of screen door takes
your breath, each footstep augurs
his approach. You conjure up
the goalie, storekeep, chef
each rising up, striding across
the kitchen like light. This
is how it happens: the creak,
soft wooden slam of screen door;
a man strides in to tell you he’s
been watching, that even peeling potatoes
you are lovely, you are what his
dark nights miss.

Over and over, the screen
door creaks open: soft slam of wooden
frame on wooden sill, not him.

The winner of three Pushcart prizes,Jill McDonough teaches in UMass-Boston’s MFA program.

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