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Fall 2006

The Dinner Party

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In a dream, as in a dream,
they sit around a round
table, seven of them, friends
of each other and of me, too,
including two of my oldest
and closest. They look like
a bunch so loving they have
made it into paradise, as, in fact,
in life, they probably have—so far,
Aristotle would have us add.
Chunks of tiny sakras, bright
with the light drained from
the worldly sky, fulge from
the tips of the waxen stalagmites
like heads of salamanders
that have wiggled themselves
into existence. At the table
they talk a kind of talk
I know I don't know, sometimes
they smile it, sometimes chuckle
to each other their arrays
of oral finery. At these moments
their ears bunch up in the somewhat
bizarre natural screwiness
of ears at any sudden thrill.


In space as yet untracked
by feet of flies, still unpurged
by Pontic waters or by the Ajax
of the love of things earthly,
they look up, and smile.
"This empty chair. It's for you.
Come." O my dears. Yes, except
of course I'm only dreaming you,
the impossibility of you, of being
one of you. I can't. They take
the straitjacket off. So what?
The lunatic continues to hug himself.
Across the table I clink
eyeballs with several of you.
Space sings. My ears gaggle. Why?
I'm making you up, as I glidder
through the human dream.
Sometimes, rising from my desk
thick with discarded wretched
beginnings, the only way
I know I'm alive is
my toe- and fingernails grow.
O what I could have written! Maybe
will have written...Tonight
I will work late, then bed,
then up, then...then we'll see.
By then the busgirls and busboys
may have already come and lapsed
me into the lapping waters of ever
more swiftly elapsing time, and then
sat me down propped up on a chair
alone with knife, fork, and spoon
and bright empty glassfuls of desire.

—Galway Kinnell

Galway Kinnell, who died in 2014, was a MacArthur Fellow and State Poet of Vermont. Among his many books of poetry were The Book of Nightmares, Imperfect Thirst, A New Selected Poems, and Strong Is Your Hold.

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