I Like To Go Where The Old People Eat

 

I like to go where the old

people eat, curious fingers curled

like shrimp, picking at pickled

beets from the buffet, sweet and tender,

steeping in red juice and ringed with age like

an old maple tree. Sitting in booths,

legs and backs creaking and

scraping against green sun

stained vinyl, the eaters silently

scoop potato salad to their lips. They

recall hot salty gin in tall glasses while

sitting in front of the

Zenith watching Milton Berle

bound through their living room selling

cigarettes, and as they stared at

the glow from the screen it

wrapped around them like neat

cardigan sweaters of green and

gold. They speak about the days

when they danced at the halls and

how they laughed too loud at the woman

who lived next door, her strapless

dress falling as she twirled around

the floor, exposing the world to a

view only seen in darkened bedrooms

with shades drawn tight.

“I think she died last year.” one eater

says, wiping chicken gravy

from his upper lip, “Cancer.”

They look at me sometimes, smiling.

I look away, leaving them quiet

privacy to nod and eat,

their beans and peas blending on each plate

like different worlds with a similar god,

and as I sip my ice tea, straining

ice cubes with my teeth,

I listen as their silverware barely

scratches the surface of their plates.

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