Skip to main content
By Jim Richards

He wonders if she wants him
to order for her.

                She wonders
                if he has noticed her nails, and
                if so, why he has not said anything.

If he doesn’t order for her,
she might think he’s rude, but
if he does, she might think he’s

                He could ask if
                she did her nails herself or if
                she had them done.

She could ask him
if he would like to order for her
or not.

                What can I get for you?
                the waiter asks,
                but they need more time to decide.

She bets he wants
to order carne asada con cebolla,
but won’t because of what she said
about his onion breath. She wants
him to order whatever he wants,
to feel “free-at-ease,” which was
his phrase for happiness. She wants him
to order for her, to be that free.

                He wants to do what she wants,
                and wants to ask her what she wants,
                but knows that what she wants
                is for him to know what she wants
                (which is whatever he wants)
                without asking her what she wants.

What can I get for you?
the waiter asks. They look up
from their menus and smile
at each other, as in a mirror.

They need more time to decide.


Jim Richards has taught literature and creative writing since completing a PhD at the University of Houston in 2003. His poems have appeared in Poetry Northwest, Copper Nickel, Sugar House Review, Prairie Schooner, Hotel Amerika, and Southern Poetry Review. He has received nominations for Best New Poets, three Pushcart Prizes, and was granted a fellowship from the Idaho Arts Commission. His first collection, Song for My Left Ear, Song for My Right, will be published in 2025. He lives in eastern Idaho’s Snake River valley.