Denim by Christine Kitano

My mother, the young
immigrant, worked for minimum
wage at Denny’s, serving thin
coffee to men in blue denim.
My mother, sixteen, nimble
in the dim hours of dawn,
drowns brown mugs in a sink
of suds, dreaming, every
minute, of escape. Inside
the diner, men ask her name,
stack dimes on the counter,
and dine on cheap steaks
dipped in runny eggs. Men
are imminent, she tells me
when I leave the house
in a denim skirt. A fringe
of nimbus clouds hovers
outside. Don’t say
I didn’t warn you,
she adds, and, Lie
when they ask you
your name.

Christine Kitano’s second collection of poetry, Sky Country, was published in 2017 by BOA Editions. Recent poems and essays appear in Crab Orchard Review, Tar River Poetry, and Wildness. She teaches poetry and Asian American literature at Ithaca College.

*This poem is included in the 2018 print issue of Portland Review*