Dinner Conversation

Just as I began to warm
to the occasion, our hostess said
I don’t think politics is a good party topic,
at which point I turned my attention
back to the potatoes until
she commented that listening
to those Shostakovich quartets filled
with Russian winter
and oppression was depressing.
Thinking about lines of people
forming an adagio in the snow,
the KBG tapping
allegretto on the door at midnight,
and a largo underscoring
days without relief
from gray routines, I offered
that the music perfectly described
its situation, and depressing
would apply better to advertising jingles
celebrating breakfast. How happy
can a cereal make anyone? I asked,
and the meal progressed
along its meaty way, when talk
shifted to the raising and slaughter
of pigs. All very civilized
and matter-of-fact
except for the pigs
and for me as a vegetarian for whom
the topic was quite political,
though no one seemed to notice.
I hadn’t expected poetry
to come up, but when it did it was because
the three-year-old grandchild
of other guests became well known
for reciting a poem by a poet the mention
of whose name caused my wife
to jab me with her elbow
pre-empting my opinion, which could not
have gone over well considering
his identity. Nobody
wanted to talk about religion
unless it was their own. Weddings
were a popular theme, and the way
whipped cream layered
over ices made a sweet thing sweeter,
but nobody dared bring up
presidential debates, which didn’t so far
appear presidential, with all
the buffoonery and the absence of any
cultural awareness to enhance
our understanding of how music
can express what words never can
as long as freedom of speech
means saying whatever others want to hear.
So with fifteen months to wait
before the election, we scraped clean
our plates after an uneventful dessert
in the American manner
with a choice between flavors
and a final chorus of Goodnights
echoing in spaces left
between unspoken thoughts.

David Chorlton has lived in Phoenix since 1978. He grew up in England with watching soccer as a major part of life although he has managed to move on to other interests since then, including reading and writing poetry. Read other articles by David.