There is a reception after the reading.
It lasts about 30 minutes
since an electrician and the janitorial service
should be paid overtime.
After the applause, we all gather and mingle
around the table with
Gallo Chablis, Melba crackers,
and with one or two
wet strawberries on the Hallmark plate
like rat hearts at the biology class.
We listen to a 23-year-old
fiction writer in lilac tights
working on a novel.
During the discourse
we screw, fall in love, or
disintegrate a few fellow participants
and spend a lifetime with one
on the other side of the room,
the one we never get to talk to
since she is conversing all the time
with a tall psychotherapist with oily hair,
standing by a trash can
under the red sign “Exit.”
We ask, and not hearing the answer—
answer. Busy talking,
we grow fibroids and nasal polyps
and plan our lives for the next twenty years.
As we talk, the weak spirit
melts down in a plastic cup
freezing our fingertips,
and by the time the room is habitable
the time is killed and the party is over.
We walk out into the empty street
and the surrounding night
invites us to our real world:
moonlight, wet sand,
cold magnolia leaves,
calling of the freight train,
our own smell, leading us
back home, where nobody waits, so
we can play cards with dead relatives
until someone comes
and turns on the light.
Evansville Review, 2/02/06