I sit at a table pressed against
the outer brick wall of the diner,
where my children color placemats
and play tic-tac-toe.
I count the number of exits in this place,
how many seconds it would take
for me to break free
from the overweight man wearing overalls
and the tall man in stained jeans and hat.
They drove up with a confederate flag
erect on their truck bed
before walking in to join three friends.
They claim the space for themselves
as their heads motion towards me
while I shade in a yellow flower
my daughter drew on her napkin.
I count how many fists it would take
before I’d finally fall to the floor
from the weight of their oppression.
When I was younger, I could manage
to get to my car with only a few bruises,
but now I’m not so sure.
And I’d still have to get my kids to the van,
make sure they were buckled in car seats,
and their favorite Disney song was playing.
But first we would need to make it
past the two men and their friends,
to the gravel parking lot
where the streetlight flickers.
And as I count the number of times
I’ve met men like these,
I wonder whether my children
will end up doing the same.
David M. Taylor teaches at a community college in St. Louis, Missouri. His work has appeared in various magazines such as Albany Poets, Misfit Magazine, Rat’s Ass Review, Indigent Press,and Trailer Park Quarterly. He was a finalist for the 2017 Annie Menebroker Poetry Award and has three poetry chapbooks—M&Ms and Other Insignificant Poems, Two Cobras in a Ritual Dance, and Life’s Ramblings.
Photograph by Faze039423.