The waitress stands over me at 6:00 a.m. with pad
and pen. She recites her litany with weary kindness;
she says orange juice, coffee, two eggs over easy,
says whole wheat toast, marmalade, each word
a wafer I take from her hands and eat.
I stand before the white robed technician, my blouse
draped around my hips. She gently cups my breasts
in her hand, guides me between the cold steel wings
of the machine. It will aim its radiant eye to uncover
whatever mystery might be hidden there.
The beautician holds my head in her hands,
tips it backward over the white chalice of the sink,
sluices warm water through my hair again and again,
smoothing the wings of my emptiness with her fingers
until I am loosened and released.
This poem was originally published in Christianity and the Arts journal in 1999 and is reprinted here with the author’s permission.
Taking its title from Psalm 91:11, “And He Shall Give His Angels Charge Over You” by Sharron Singleton expresses gratitude for those who work in the service sector, such as diner servers, mammography technologists, and hairstylists, who care for us through things like a hot cup of coffee, a diagnostic X-ray, or a relaxing shampoo—gifts that should not be taken for granted. The speaker of the poem, in fact, receives them as sacraments of sorts, describing the waitress’s recitation of menu offerings as “a wafer.” Similarly, the mammography tech wears a white robe, like the alb of a priest; she guides and illumines. And at the salon, the sink is like a chalice, a liturgical vessel, holder of the sacred—or a baptismal font; the speaker leaves washed and unburdened, light of spirit.
Singleton’s first full-length poetry collection, Our Hands a Hollow Bowl (Grayson Books, 2018), is an artful celebration of the sacramentality of nature and of everyday life—gardening, peeling potatoes, working, hiking, sex, baseball, waiting in line, watching one’s son hold his son, selling a home full of memories. She also writes tenderly but without sentimentality about her mother and father, reflecting especially on her upbringing in rural Michigan, her mother’s slow death from cancer, and the pain of absence.
Singleton has recently completed the manuscript for her second full-length collection and is in the process of getting it published.