Local Lit

LOCAL LIT: ‘On Being Mistaken for the Hostess at The Maize in Newark’

Cathryn Cofell |

I apologize for my khaki slacks and black blouse.

I apologize for my confident walk,

            my midwestern way of looking strangers in the eye and saying hi.

I apologize for looking like a woman who could land parties of 15 at tables

            for eight with only a table napkin and smart phone as semaphore.

I am so sorry I was told service work was no damn way

            for any daughter of mine to make a living,

            for groveling my way up the corporate ladder.

I apologize for the poor service,

            for my inability to levitate your tired bodies.

I apologize for feeling the need to apologize for your mistake.

Let me bring you a menu.

Let me bring you my half eaten fruit plate, what’s left of my wine.

Please take my seat and these, they belong to my friends who have had too much

            to drink and will barely notice the change in altitude.

Please, take my friends and my coat and my wallet.

Forgive me, dear stranger, for your frown suggests I have sinned,

a mere woman on the way to the restroom in the Garden State.


Cathryn Cofell is a UW-Eau Claire grad who now resides in Appleton. Her latest collection, Stick Figure with Skirt, in which this poem appeared, was awarded the 2019 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award and was released in November 2019.  Reprinted with permission of the author. Learn more about Cathryn at cathryncofell.com.