Ellen LaFleche


Angel slaps hash and eggs on a plate,
her body swaying as if on sea legs.

When she shimmies over to the booth
where Joe Dugas is waiting for his breakfast
the plates jingle in her hands
like belly-dance cymbals.

Joe - who lost his ring finger at the mill -
pats her shoulder. Angel, he murmurs,
and licks sugar off his donut. Joe's touch triggers
a ferocious rippling in Angel's hips.

Her braid strains against its hairnet.

On lunch break Angel slips her tips into the juke.
Alone in a booth she head-bobs to Patsy Cline,
gulps a chocolate milkshake
and a couple of burgers with the works.

At night Angel sits in bed
and lets her twined hair out of captivity.

She thinks of Joe,
still married to Cathy
going on twenty-five years.

Angel's braid unwinds,
graceful as a double helix
opening itself for love.

Joe has never seen the uncoiling
but he can imagine waves of hair
boiling down Angel's back.

All he wants is to swim his nine good fingers
through those crashing beakers.

Ellen LaFleche has worked as a journalist and health educator in Massachusetts. She recently received the Parnassus Prize for poetry about the medical experience with her poem "Snow White Faces Terminal Cancer." Her poetry has been published in Patchwork Journal, Georgia State University Review, the Binnacle, On the Outskirts, and Words and Pictures Magazine. She recently won first prize in the first annual Natchez Poetry contest. She has type II diabetes which has challenged both sides of her family.