Content

Issue 14
Etiquette

I was doing my best at the friendly gesture –
eating stiff clam dip with pita,
drinking, quite frankly, stinking bad wine.

When the talk died of boredom, I began
building a little city in my throat, complete
with harbor. A firehouse full

of well-meaning white guys beamed
from my eyes like a line-up
of New England ancestors.

My hostess cramped the room, passing
out snacks, upsetting the wharf I was
at work on. I got to unrolling a pier

into the water when my cigarette snagged
on a plank and set the city on fire.
Stanching the flames with my sleeve,

I tried to play casual, waving
and smiling. But the hostess came
hovering closer, and clapped up a draft.

And since the flames were rising,
and the bile, too, was rising, and clams
from the hot sea came rising,

and though her taste in music was torture,
my hostess was clapping her hands
in a command to dance.

(previously published in Barn Owl Review)