No End of Trouble

So then I couldn’t get it working,
the Sterno for the buffet pan
of Harvard beets
or Johnny Come Lately
(oops, Johnny Marzetti),
and it seemed like the whole event
was about to fall apart
under the weight of too many
expectations and bated breaths.
I can’t stand to be watched
while I work. That’s how
I once dropped 13 dinner plates
all at once, while the toothless
kitchen manager hissed in triumph.
So anyway, I don’t like lighters
ever since I singed my nail on one
and it smelled like burning hair.
I couldn’t take that at all.
Sometimes this job gets to be
too much. I can’t say
how I want to go —
young or old, in a fiery crash
that makes the news, or
in my sleep, or the usual,
which is from here to nursing home,
and then maybe to hospice, and then
a lingering letting go of everything
important.
So I don’t begrudge them,
the angry old men and women
who only want their party tonight —
or this afternoon — their
plastic glass of sparkling wine
and for me to seem more competent
than I really am.

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