By Aileen Keown Vaux
An angular jaw, with the suggestion of stubble,
like a sprinkling of graphite flakes.
Small breasts, a commemoration of autumn, an apple harvest:
How are we to look at her?
She sat down during our busiest shift, took up a table
that could easily fit four, and waited for a friend.
Her chamomile tea was easy to prepare,
but as it brewed, so did the patrons,
so did waitresses and waiters, who loitered at the counter, trying to
Is that a man or woman? What is that?
Questions a five year-old may ask,
a tiny child taught to worship
the finite beauty of categories.
The flavorless assurance of science, not without a few faults,
not without lines and cracks in granite and bedrock.
Adult words, though, sound like this: texture, subtlety, nuance.
What kind of homotopia is this?
A place where civil rights are conferred to the familiar,
where civil is disconnected from civility.
Envisioned as a gay Noah's Ark,
same-sex couples saunter two-by-two
on New Sweden sidewalks, saving themselves
from the withering glances of those who do
not feel the word outsider.
Not much different than a woman in search of tea.
Hypocrisy has a Grecian sound—
is an ancient betrayal we commit with amnesia.
The rage that percolated in the café chorus,
boiled under her transgression:
taking up too much space, seated before
a circle of witnesses and strangers.
We do not stone in public though, but haphazardly, and in private;
we hurl questions that welt flesh and mark the body as alien,
but for every stone we throw, we cement our own degradation.
Aileen Keown Vaux graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., with a degree in English. She believes that poets have the highest job satisfaction rating in the nation. You may contact her at email@example.com .