She is always Oletta,
ejected misconception
of a white trash traveling man,
trading bibles and bastards
at another highway diner
some thirty-odd ago and
now she works the same table
where mama bought
a good book and a good time;
serving eggs, pouring joe
for the good ol' boys who snigger
behind stained cups,
they snicker hey bright nigger;
high-yeller piece
with a white gal's face.
Their eyes finger her wet-suede skin,
curl themselves in umber coils
springing from her head;
her shoulders itch
as they watch the rounds

but she is still Oletta,
goes home nights,
room 12 at Queen's motel;
she signs the slips in pencil,
pays rent by the week because
things change, don't they;
maybe she'll pack it up,
move to London or Paris
where skin like wet suede
buys you benedict and latte
served on silver trays,
houseboys in black-tie
draw baths laced with Vouvray
and now the tub is full;
good ol' thoughts float,
shed layers below her breasts.
She thinks of traveling men,
sees faces without features
beneath her lids and wonders
where the names went; what happened
to the traces left behind?

She listens to a TV preacher
saving souls through the walls,
glory halleleujah, the refills
aren't really free. Time leaves
footprints in rings, dead trails
growing cold with the water
and she remembers
she is always Oletta.

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