Shall we feast on the carousel of words that
I will prepare in your honour, tonight?
I have set the table for three; you and I,
and room for a third, invite whomever
you please, but we both know who
the dinner guest will be.
You will swirl your chianti and pick at
the lamb, you’ll tell the story of how
you found yourself in Cambodia,
and how the people are the true
gems of the country before losing
yourself mid-sentence to regale us
about how you want to snorkel in
I’ll sink into the chair as you
ramble on, our dinner guest will
stare daggers at me and I’ll finish
my wine and pour us some more.
And in the process,
I’ll cut myself on the sharpness
of the silence, but I won’t bleed,
not here – not in the front
of the two of you,
my politeness has no limits.
I’ll brave this brazen assault,
and swallow the shards,
after all, is that not what a
good host does?
Dessert was a fever-dream,
you drank your nightcap
and mine, and fell asleep
I apologize to our guest,
and make small talk.
“How’s the weather?”
They do not speak.
“Have you been able to book,
your second-dose appointment yet?”
They remain unwavering.
So I do not speak.
We stew in the indifference,
you lap at the dark corners
of the room, and I –
and I, watch your insolence,
my throat is parched so I
do not have the words.
I’ll take a honey lozenge,
and you’ll carefully examine
the contents of the room,
lingering over the photos of
where I’m smiling.
The silence grows wings
and parts for drier pastures,
and you speak –
“I didn’t spot any wounds
I walk over to the couch,
and with the precision of
a mortician, take care to
neatly lay down in the
The warm winds of June
has abated itself,
the once-promised monsoon
is no more.
The network of nerves and muscles
twitch one last time in harmony,
as the memories rise to the top of
the body as if you were skimming
scum from stock, and what remains
among the residuum will form the
basis for my succinct eulogy:
You rap your fingers on the same window
where I had countless thoughts of
defenestrating myself through,
and gather your things quietly -
have you ever seen a storm depart?
I close my eyes and imagine the door shut,
my heart races, and you dim the lights
and sit in the corner.
A voice calls out,
“are you coming to bed?”
We lock eyes.
“In a minute” I say.
You loom while I crawl
back into bed next to her.
It’s your turn to be patient,
and patient you are –
you rear your face whenever
I find some semblance of
I pull the drawstring out of my
pants and knot it around my wrist
and tie it to the bedpost to anchor
me, I don’t have enough memories
to weigh me down, and I always
dream of escaping gravity.
She’s fast asleep.
Snoring steadily like
an almost metronome.
You kiss my forehead
and tuck me in and dissipate
My first impression was that this poem was about the dinner guest being a metaphor for a truth trying to come out after a fight which haunted me, now the way the guest was described and what they were doing suggests that it is indeed a person. It is such a well-written poem that I have to read a few more times and maybe I can find more to think about. I try to interpret poems on my own without reference from other smarter critics who interpret better than I.
So many emotions in this poem that it was hard to focus on just one but, the sense of sadness I felt when reading this overwhelmed the others. The narration throughout was outstanding and the situation very believable as the struggle unfolds. I know I will come back and read this several more times.
I am so glad I read this in time for nominations. It was the middle of the night and I wanted to wait until I properly woke up to collect my thoughts after a second read.
So this feels and reads like your style and your voice, but it also seems vastly different from your past work. Not just the inclusion of the dialogue, but more macabre tones. I can't quite explain it.
When I first read it, I initially got vibes of "I'm thinking of ending things" (the film adaptation, not the book as I haven't read the book yet). It felt unsettling and unnerving at times, along with not quite knowing what's real. The abstraction. Like there could be multiple interpretations here. I also thought of "The Haunting of Hill House" in terms of passing on from life and what remains in the physical world.
I detected a bitterness and almost a tinge of resentment here, from your phrasing, sometimes formal, and perhaps it's the way you show what is happening, without revealing everything, so that it feels like a fever dream in a way.
The first half visibly made me uncomfortable, though I haven't hosted dinner parties before, I've attended some where a guest is not self-aware, telling story after story and not leaving proper room for anyone else to share. It's awkward yet not much can be said or done since no one wants to come across as rude or unpleasant. I can't imagine someone falling asleep though, and the burden of trying to continue a conversation.
When you referred to the dinner guest as "they", and how they don't speak, then you mention "you" again, I wondered if the dinner guest was a manifestation of someone, or an out of body experience almost. You trying to see yourself from someone else's eyes. And your partner is now waking up and looking around, though it was not mentioned that they woke up yet. Or if you switch pronouns so that the dinner guest is now asking questions. It's interesting, I can't quite pinpoint it!
Then reading on, I couldn't help but feel the drift from reality. That your companion and you are putting on this dinner, this feast, but it isn't real. You are perhaps between life and death? Or not settled as a ghost yet.
I got shivers with the "I didn't spot any wounds on you". That simple declaration. And I took it as you are dead now, and you passed without blemish, unlike her.
"You rap your fingers on the same window
where I had countless thoughts of
defenestrating myself through,
and gather your things quietly -"
Learned a new word with "defenestrating"!
This poem took me through so much, and after the final lines, I felt as if, in the second half of the poem, you were being guided toward the final resting place. This dinner WAS real, and the reference to her being asleep and the change of pronoun made me think death was the dinner guest, or a messenger that could help ease the transition. But in your eyes, death has grown impatient, perhaps wanting you time and time before, when you had finally found peace and calm. You're not quite ready, though you know, you can't keep avoiding it. The part about the bedpost intrigued me, and I saw that line as strange and extremely poetic at the same time: "I don’t have enough memories to weigh me down, and I always dream of escaping gravity"
It made me think of keeping your body here while your spirit transfers, wherever it goes. I also thought of the possibility of tethering yourself to your bed so your mind can separate from the body, to project, to travel to another dimension, and the mention of being mourned in the final lines represents that you will never quite be yourself again. Even though you may be the same body, it will be just a host, not your personality, not your presence.
This was one of the best poems I've ever read from you. The vocabulary was impeccable. Just everything. I'm still blown away.