We stop at them on the roadside,
walk in and are relieved
that the chairs are plastic, the tables Formica,
everything orange and brown and scratched,
secure in their anachronism and imperfections,
like monks, or politeness.
The meringue on the pies
and the waitress's hair
both achieve height and elegance
by means of daily necessity.
The atmosphere is not ambience.
It is the honest flatulence of grease,
with high notes of potatoes and bacon.
The newspaper has been read
by someone who left
ten minutes ago for work.
It lies now despoiled,
as open to us
as a woman who has decided
anyone may know her without paying.
And the imitation flowers
do their best to mime
their evanescent betters.
We always have stopped at shrines like these
for a rest, or because we're hungry.