Counting Tips – John Gilgun

My mother came home from work,
sat down at the kitchen table
and counted her tips, nickel by nickel,
quarter by quarter, dime by dime.
I sat across from her reading Yeats.
No moonlight graced our window
and it wasn’t Pre-Raphaelite pallor
that bleached my mother’s cheeks.
I’ve never been able to forget
the moment she said–
interrupting The Lake Isle of Innisfree—
“I told him to go to hell.”
A Back Bay businessman
had held back the tip, asking,
“How much do you think you’re worth?”
And she’d said, “You can go to hell!”
All evening at the Winthrop Room she fed
stockbrokers, politicians, mafioso capos.
I was eighteen, a commuter student at BU,
riding the MTA to classes every day
and she was forty-one in her frilly cap,
pink uniform, and white waitress shoes.
“He just laughed but his wife was there
and she complained and the boss fired me.”
Later, after a highball, she cried
and asked me not to tell my father
(at least not yet) and Ben Franklin
stared up from his quarter,
looking as if he thought she deserved it,
and Roosevelt, from his dime, reminded her
that she was twenty years shy of Social Security.
But the buffalo on the nickel, he–
he seemed to understand.

John Gilgun is the author of Everything That Has Been Shall Be Again: The Reincarnation Fables of John Gilgun (Bieler Press, 1981), Music I Never Dreamed Of (Amethyst, 1989), The Dooley Poems (Robin Price, 1991), From the Inside Out (Three Phase, 1991), Your Buddy Misses You (Three Phase, 1995), and, with Warren Norgaard, There Is A Tomorrow: A Collection of Dialogues in Prose and Poetry (FIERCE Concepts Publications, 2007).

Contact the Editor.

  1. Mel says:

    I just finished reading the anthology “Everything I have is blue” for the second time, and your story, Cream, always leaves me wanting more. I love it! I’m happy to see there’s a Blue project, encouraging “everyday queers” to write and share their experiences. I look forward to reading more stories…The thing is, people think this is a “marginalized” part of the queer community–the working-class–queers, but wtf? This is a major part of society, just like everybody else. As a bi woman of little income and from a blue collar background, and daughter of an immigrant, I can,t find my place in the lesbian academia sort of stories out there. Do you plan on including women in your next anthology? Congratulations on your work, anyway. 🙂

    • Dear Mel: The sequel to/re-edition of EIHIB, tentatively entitled Blue, Too, will be released in 2014, with an extended annotated bibliography and a reader’s guide to the stories. And yes, the new anthology includes writers of all genders. If you know someone who should contribute, please put him/her in touch with us: stillblue[@] You can reach John Gilgun on FB if you want to send him a personal message ( ~Ed.

  2. Mel says:

    Thank you! I wish you great success with its release!

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