I was invited for Thanksgiving dinner
at my neighbor's house. So I sat down
in the living room on a divan
among some strangers, while the neighbor, Anne,
like some recording, just went on and on.
Were we just waiting for someone to arrive?
The food was on the table and all eyes
fairly licked the turkey and potatoes
getting cold. "Come to the table please,"
she never said. We rose, we mulled around
and gravitated there like a swarm of flies
and I sat down before a bowl of peas.
Nor did she tell us ever to begin
with "Let's say grace" or "Welcome to the feast!"
but kept on talking, something about her boss,
something about her father and her first
husband all mixed up in one big mess.
We took the nearest food and no one passed.
I had the peas and rolls, no butter, since
that was far away. Like picnic ants
we hustled morsels to the nest of mouth
as Anne digressed in passive aggressive tense
filling our ears with her nonsense. The pies —
pumpkin, pecan and mince — remained uncut.
We wondered if she did that every year.
It was as if the Indians of yore
had come back to serve up the proper fare
for guests with whom they later went to war,
we who had such manners, thank the Lord,
we could sit hungry at a feast, ignored,
and not be angry at being given less,
but even feel the bounty of righteousness,
as if we deserved an inhospitable meal
and not the loosened belt of gut excess,
each bitter soul choosing neither to ask
nor volunteer to pass a plate or bowl.
|Arts & Crafts Menu Border - Ca. 1910
John Milbury-Steen served in the Peace Corps in Liberia, West Africa, did a Master's in Creative Writing with Ruth Stone at
Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, worked as an artificial intelligence programmer in Computer Based Education at the
University of Delaware and currently teaches English as a Second Language at Temple University, Philadelphia.
He has also published or will publish work in The Beloit Poetry Journal, Blue Unicorn, Chimaera, Dark Horse, Kayak, Hellas,
The Listening Eye, The Deronda Review (Neovictorian/Cochlea), The Piedmont Literary Review, Scholia Satyrica, Shenandoah,
Shattercolors and the Shit Creek Review.
This is John's second appearance in
The Centrifugal Eye