Joel Holland

Lectures from a Waffle House

help me digest my breakfast.
 
This odd-hour, high-summer-esque collation
 
would cost less than the gas it took to drive there,
 
yet reminds me of home more than I’d willingly admit.
 
You know the place: something frozen perpetually frying
 
in the open faced kitchen, hiding nothing,
 
not unlike the staff that occupies that space
 
where the magic happens:
 
limited square-foot space taking full advantage
 
of 1960’s real estate regulations,
 
prioritizing the size of the store-front.
 
Saved: land costs, taxes, complications.
 
Earned: A shoebox-style design, elongated
 
in 2,000 parking lots across the Nation.
 
Picture yourself in one of them,
 
splurging on the Sausage, Egg, Cheese bowl,
 
two waffles & orange juice with coffee. Or picture me,
 
happy. Smooth as life, she says, nodding as I pour
 
syrup over crispy golden-brown patterns
 
pointing towards itself on my plate. Nice choice,
 
she nods again, and then for good measure: “Yeyup.
 
life’s like syrup, kinda smooth until you sleep
 
with your husbands secretary.”
 
I ask her to repeat herself, sure I misheard.
 
I did not. You know the taste:
 
dry hash drenched in an abundance of artificial cheese.
 
Listening, collecting,
 
monologues laced with wisdom like,
 
“cash is harder to part with
 
than funds on a credit card”
 
or maybe “feed a man for a week
 
and he’ll remember where you live.”
 
I laugh at what is true & accept a refill.
 
Everyone around me: satisfied or hungry.
 
I’m ready for the bill, somewhere between
 
“college is a scam, just like the Powerball”
 
& “at the end of the day, life’s a buffet.”
 
She returns my card & says “thanks” and
 
I say “thanks” in exchange and leave, deciding
 
what it means to love a place.

Joel Holland has several small publications in the stratosphere as well as an award here or there. This fall, they will have work featured in Kansas City Voices.