Analysis Of The Waitress By Billy Collins

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Although many of Billy Collins’ short poems feature a first-person perspective, readers should not necessarily assume that the voice belongs to the poet himself. Indeed, at times, Collins speaks in the voice of a distinct character whose experiences and thoughts reveal a specific situation and crisis. In “The Waitress,” for example, the speaker’s observations indicate that he dines out often enough to recognize the behaviours common to restaurant servers, but the detail of his description suggests that observing the waitress on this occasion has become a personally meaningful activity. The speaker’s detailed observation of his apparently indifferent waitress gives way to a romantic fantasy that reveals him to be a lonely man contemplating …show more content…
His use of the term “pivots” (2) suggests that her movements are efficient and mechanical rather than natural, and that she spends no more time than is necessary at his table. As he repeats three times that she smiles at him, he conveys the sense that her smiles are automatic and part of her waitress persona rather than indicative of any genuine pleasure in his presence. He also mentions that she brings him a menu, brings bread in a basket and refills his wine glass, actions that she has no doubt repeated for countless customers. The routine leads him to liken her to “every waitress/who has ever served me,/and every waiter, too” (17-19). In these repetitive acts, she loses her individuality and becomes merely the type of server, whether male or female. The experience itself becomes merely an example of an experience he has had many times in the past. As he has had so many experiences that he can draw on, the reader might surmise that the speaker is not young; in fact, the speaker turns the poem halfway through into a sentimental nostalgic fantasy. The poem makes its turn when the speaker describes his own peculiar actions: “I hold my fork in the air--/the blades of the fan/turn slowly on the ceiling” (22-24). This odd image, in which the fork seems to puncture the present moment of reality, leads to an improbable

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