3 poems — Cat Dixon

When the waitress ties her hair back

The cook watches her from his station. Her elbows stick out, twin guards beside her head. As she tugs her hair into place with a black ecstatic band and then lets the hair fall to redo the style, the next attempt results in a snap. “Does anyone have a rubber band?” Her eyes meet his. He slips the tan rubber band from his wrist—saved from that morning’s paper—just for this moment. He steps forward. “Here.” He drops it into her open palm. She thanks him and pulls her hair tight into a pony tail. Stretched so tightly against her scalp, that rubber band reports back her scent, her morning routine, her thoughts.


The cook wears white

His skin smells like onions and his hands peel. He slices at the cutting board, shuffles to the stovetop, glances back to the swinging door waiting for the waitress— dressed in black, dark hair tucked into a bun, nails trimmed short. He imagines telling their future children, I cooked for her every night and every night she lit dozens of candles on white dressed tables and live jazz was all the rage. Those nights felt like forever and then we aged. In the kitchen if you cage a man with a spatula and match he will trigger explosions—grenades of cilantro, bullets of rosemary, an army of pots and knives deployed to the restaurant, the city, the world—convert them all to diners. Everyone consumes—consumes until there is nothing left except cavity-filled teeth and the mouth, a giant sore.


“This door must remain unlocked during business hours”

The sign warns, but they ignore it. The fire starts in the kitchen and spreads to the counter. The register explodes with quarters and dimes scattering in the air like released doves at an over-the-top wedding; then, the napkins and straws are kindling and those flames eat the tables and chairs; the floor tiles melt; the painting on the wall drips and oozes. So, they have to lock the door to hold the blaze. They have to keep everyone away. This fire cannot be contained.


Cat Dixon is the author of Our End Has Brought the Spring (Finishing Line Press, 2015) and Too Heavy to Carry (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2014). She is the managing editor of The Backwaters Press, a nonprofit press in Omaha. She teaches creative writing at the University of Nebraska. Her poetry and reviews have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Sugar House Review, Midwest Quarterly Review, Coe Review, Eclectica, and Mid-American Review.