Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present "Hamburger Diner" by Howard F. Stein. Dr. Stein is a professor emeritus in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, where he taught for nearly thirty-five years. He is also a medical, psychoanalytic, organizational, and applied anthropologist and is currently group process facilitator for the American Indian Diabetes Prevention Center, Oklahoma City.
Dr. Stein has published twenty-eight books of which seven are books or chapbooks of poetry. His most recent poetry books are In the Shadow of Asclepius: Poems from American Medicine (2011) and Raisins and Almonds (2014).
Howard F. Stein
of a busy city’s strip mall
the hamburger diner sits,
plain tables and chairs,
booths unkind to the back,
simple walls, stucco and brick.
The diner seems out of place –
surrounded by shops for the well-to-do.
Theirs might be the finest burgers on earth;
hot, juicy, drenched
in sautéed onions, and pungent mustard –
condiments that, while not universally enjoyed,
perfectly fit my appetite.
The waitress is as alluring
as the hamburger.
She looks tired –
too many tables to wait on
to be conversational,
takes orders, moves on,
speaks with her eyes, notices
my drained mug of root beer
as soon as I finish it;
she asks if I’d like another.
Is there an extra charge?
She says “No.” Our eyes meet
over root beer. Her face softens.
She cracks a shy smile and hurries off
for my second frosted mug.
Later, unbidden, she brings me a third.
Poet’s Notes: I never know when a poem will descend upon me or ascend within me. Diagonal from the watch repair shop I visit is a hamburger diner. I manage to come to the repair shop when hamburgers are cooking. The entire area outside the diner is redolent with the inviting aroma of grilled hamburgers. Once, while waiting on a watch, I ventured into the diner. The iced mug of root beer and the thick hamburger made me a convert. So did the waitress. From this was born a poem as I sat in the booth. I've been back many times, even when I don't have a watch in need of repair.
Editor’s Note: My mouth started to water at the end of the first stanza (I happen to like my burgers with sautéed onions and mustard--in any case, after reading this poem, a visit to Five Guys is most certainly in my future). The poet made the right choice to end with the strong and evocative last line--just as with a good hamburger, it leaves one wanting more but in a good way.