A fly, when it exists, has as much Being as God

–Soren Kierkegaard

The waitress sits me down by the window,

calls me “hun” and places

a familiar yellow square before me.

I don’t need a menu

and she doesn’t need

to write down my order.

She remembers it just fine.

There is one other couple

in the place. She is smoking.

I look out over the city.

I first realized I had become a southern writer

when I saw all those references to “cornbread”

cropping up in my poems.

Contemplating the browned edges

I could almost see the flies that had lived in this place.

Wringing their hands at the hope of crumbs

or an inattentive diner.

It’s not because I like cornbread,

I don’t really. It is only o.k.

It’s usually too dry. I would never

go out of my way for it.

The attraction, I guess

is more like how I feel about God.

I don’t understand it. I don’t understand

how so many

people, good people

thoughtful, reflective people,

even cynical people,

I don’t understand why

they believe.

The waitress brings me my meal

and for a moment I forget about

God and flies and good and inattentive people.

I just eat and don’t bother

with the black specs in my drink.

I understand the need.

It’s like that window washer

dangling across the way.

Thirty stories above the pavement

on a rope as thin as his thumb.

He has to believe in something.

He has to trust in something.

Cornbread crumbs fall on my shirt and table.

I understand the need.

A waitress in this vacant place

filled with hope that I might leave

a two dollar tip on a five dollar meal.

But the window washer, the waitress,

when they get home again

and the roof still leaks

or the kids are crying

and the same fight with their mother

or spouse that they have been having

for 20 years, and the same bills to pay

and same chores that resemble

what they barely finished yesterday.

Their lives, my life too,

are dangling by a thread.

And all that faith

all that hope that helped

them get to today

does not wipe the absurdity away

from anything.

The waitress comes and asks me

if I am done with my plate.

I nod. She takes it away

and uses a rag to brush

the cornbread crumbs on the floor.

God. Cornbread. Thumb-thin rope.

I guess it doesn’t really matter

what we believe in, how hard or why.

What matters is that we just

keep on cleaning up and hanging on.

Sean Doyle, a native of Delaware and father of three, moved to the Triangle five years ago to practice law. His poem, “Designs by Eloise,” was runner-up in the Independent’s 2000 poetry contest.

Poetry Picks runs every week in the Independent. To submit a poem, email olufunke@indyweek.com. Please include a few short sentences about who you are and where you’re from.