Rockets flash briefly across the chilled sky, plumes of smoke, ash carried off by impending winter.
Over the lintel of the entry to the Inter-Continental Hotel Chicago, carved deeply into the marble Es Salamu Aleikum staring implacably through ponderous brass framed doors onto the Miracle Mile. Countless guests pass below it unseeing.
My son and I sit across a small table spilling bits of tapas onto the cloth, laughing lightly at the young boy bathed in a puree of tomato, his shirt dotted in goat cheese. My son explains the inflation of the universe, gravitational waves cast off by coalescing binary neutron stars. His words pull me deeper into my seat. We speak somberly of the jet engine parked haphazardly in the Queens gas station unwilling to mention 265 lives salted across the small community.
We embrace by his door, the few measured hours run. He turns to call his girlfriend, I turn my collar up against the November night.
The Red Line train clatters slowly back into a sleeping city. In my room I brew a cup of Darjeeling.
*”We will drink tea in Kabul tomorrow morning, if God wills it.” – Basir Khan, Northern Alliance Commander, quoted in the Chicago Tribune, 13 November 2001.
First appeared in Hearsay, 2004 and in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008).
She plucks the odd loose thread puts it on the table and finds another and a bit of what could be twine. She weaves them together loosely, with seeming abandon until they are an ill formed braid barely hanging together, a jumble of color and fabric, a true hodge-podge. But when she says to all of us gathered, “look at the amazing tapestry I have woven, we all nod approvingly and for a moment, when we look away, we see the intricate story she sees so clearly and believes she has so carefully told.
For three days I was
a short order cook
a change from my table duties
when the regular guy decided
that a night of drinking didn’t end
when the bar closed
and broke back in
through the rotting back door
that was always next
on the list of things to be fixed.
The owner, my boss, said he’d wait
three days for the cook
to dry out in his cell,
but my cooking made him reconsider.
Yet the customer still came, paid
Were patient, and after
the three days past,
and the old cook couldn’t make
even his nominal bail
the boss hired a new cook
and I went back to dishes
and filling coffee, and looking lovingly
at my dishwasher, my friend
for a too long too long summer
until I went back to college.
The conversation flows freely, piles up on the table, amid dishes from a meal now fully consumed, as the last of the wine reluctantly cedes its grip on the bottle and settles into the glasses. In Abruzzi, the vintner imagined this, staring at the grapes pulled lovingly from the now ancient vines. As night draws its curtain ever tighter, as hugs replace the conversation, the rest of the grapes settle in for a final sleep.