Jess Rizkallah

there is so much love and leaving in minimum wage


for jrod

i’m not sure when he started talking to me like i’m his friend
and not an anxious twenty-three year old sometimes scheduled to
tell him what to do & when to rest or eat or breathe for exactly thirty minutes
and all this after he trained me to do that shit.

probably when he caught me arranging the ceramic mugs symmetrically
atop the espresso machine, just like he showed me but no one else ever does.
or maybe when i drew him on receipt paper as a squirrel or maybe when
i asked him about when he knew he loved her and what he did about it
or maybe when i stopped saying “please”
and instead said to him yo are you tryin to pass me some milk
to which he said i’ve taught you so well, his beard betraying his dimples
his eyes softened almonds, patient.

then he said there’s no one else i’d trust
to keep my wisdom alive here
and he’s joking
because there is not wisdom in routine, but there is, sometimes,
in the way you approach it & there is in fact a certain way
he does everything with such care and exactness that i love
in the way i always love the ones who save me
even if i don’t tell them.

my hands move the same as everyone i’ve ever met behind the bar
these people i keep with me in the way i do things just like they’ve shown me

this is how i keep my people close: i watch. i listen.


Jess Rizkallah is a Lebanese-American writer, illustrator, and coffee slinger living between Boston & New York. Alumna of Lesley University, MFA candidate at NYU & founding editor at Maps For Teeth magazine / pizza pi press. She’s a pushcart prize nominated & nationally ranked WoWPS poet (2016). Her work has appeared in Word Riot, Nailed Magazine, Button Poetry, HEArt Online, & on her mother’s fridge. Her collection ‘the magic my body becomes’ is forthcoming on University of Arkansas Press, 2017. Find her at