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Because our waiters are hopeless romantics

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              the plates are broken after just one meal:
plates that mimic lily pads or horseshoe crabs,
              swifts’ wings,
golden koi, whirlpools, blowholes in rictus:
              all smashed against the table’s edge—

. . . also our chef eschews pepper & salt
              for violets & vespers
& squid ink & honey from wasps
              rare lichen grown in local snow
authentic silt dark from the Nile or Tigris.

              Surely you know that poultry, if cooked right,
will cure most common psychic ills?
              It’s something to do with the feathers.

                                      ≈

. . . but you’re hungry. Come in. Sit. Taste.
              There’s breast of swan for shame.

Try a quail tart for rage,
              macaw on poached orchids for boredom.

And we serve so many other things.
              There’s really nothing you can’t order:
goat’s feet, orange groves, prophets & smoke
              convent orphans playing violins
flavors of memory, winter & wax, angles of sun, extravagant claims . . .

              Don’t worry, there’s plenty

it’s a mysterious feast you attend, but it offers
              an affable scent of the cauldron, the light of abundance poured
over every table & marvelous barstool    
Come in—

                                     

Now you’re getting the gist:
              at each table’s head that growing pile of shards
is not waste but homage to the potter.
              The world’s a dish to relish, to finish:

this conch afloat in broth
              a frilly and vertical eye  
though portent & probably tainted, is solace
              like these towers of loquats & glittering scales
or our bright pans’ brash mortal clanging.

              Blink back the sun and look inside.
Our tiny lights don’t at all resemble stars.  
              Come in, come sup. You’ll never feel full.

Source: Poetry (December 2009)

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This poem originally appeared in the December 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

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Because our waiters are hopeless romantics

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