the chinese girl sizing up her polo-shirted date
orders a Manhattan, and has just picked the stem
off the cherry and placed it in her mouth when he walks in.
she watches, loops silence around her tongue, tying
knots for nooses behind the closed lips practiced for
the black dude’s question, the bartender’s call,
the cop’s cocked gun.
later she will string together the words
“not” “my” “business” and spin the night
into a joke about how her manicure matched
the maraschino red of the bruise she left
under the popped cotton collar.