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I am enlightened, a man says after dinner, and he doesn't mean what you think he means, he means he's a product of the Enlightenment, he's talking over his pain in the abyss inside his gum, it's called an abscess (we actually call it that, he's taken painkillers, he's swallowed them with the wine offered him).
Hawks in the trees. Men talking about philosophy. Lemon julienned over the chicken turning colors in an adequate oven. Good times, for a minute. The argument about the correct use of the word surveillance falls over my body.
The first time, I drank a beer and hated it. The second, I craved sugar water the colors of Gone with the Wind, the third, I just saw everything disappear. Most men say they would give birth if they could.
The crossroads. What you bring there to bury. The journey. Constant circling back, later at night, and in darker weather. Terrible to lose touch with your friends. Forgive the metaphor that defends. The usual becomes treacherous. In the dream, all of them had children and lived together in the same house where it was always Halloween, decked with pumpkins and ghosts.
I could try to be scared but not afraid. Looking into the chicken coop like a wolf.
Days late, I could see a snake moving across the surface of the lake, writing its path, unwriting the path it did not take. But it wasn't to be, that time. The effort made towards what I wished.
You climbed the mountain with me, a recovering moralist. You wanted to stay on the path, I wanted to find it.
"I wake up every morning feeling like we are in the middle of a national misunderstanding. Before the election happened, earlier in the summer, I'd started writing about conversations that break down, or become arguments. These short poems from 'After Dinner Was Over' were written after a dinner party on a beautiful night frayed into discord. I wrote 'Anger' on the cover of the notebook I drafted them in, but the current title echoes the Catholic Eucharistic prayer: 'When supper was ended, he took the cup. Again he gave you thanks and praise, gave the cup to his disciples and said…' There are so many subjects we cannot talk about without hurting each other or feeling threatened and still we have to live together." —Katie Peterson
Katie Peterson is the author of The Accounts (University of Chicago Press, 2013). She teaches at the University of California at Davis and lives in Albany, California.
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