"Eggrolls"

"Eggrolls"

"Eggrolls"

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A weekly poem, read by the author.
Feb. 15 2005 8:12 AM

"Eggrolls"




The gregarious babble
muffled the sharp
words the couple
in the next booth
were trying all
through dinner not
to have;
                only
an occasional
No you, you
listen for a change,
or How dare you
or I can't believe this
                       would rise
above the barely
suppressed
                staccato please
god not now
not here rhythm of
an argument they wanted
both to swallow
                      and spit out.
Then the pause,
the momentary
silence in which
                      the whole place
seemed
            to be listening
to the woman say, at last,
clearly and slowly,
so everyone could hear,
                                  "It's not
the eggrolls, Harry,
it's the last ten years."

Oh, Harry, can you
forgive them,
                     the young couple
in the next booth
who laughed outloud
but really did
try not to—
                 surely
you heard them,
how could you not have?—
as you ran past,
hurrying after her,
your disappearing wife?
And though it's nearly
thirty years
                    since then,
would it console you
or amuse you now
to learn they didn't
last a year,
that couple,
                   and even
that night,
                 although
they strolled home
hand in hand,
a little less estranged
              for all the laughter
you occasioned,
even after
                making love
and meaning it and
lying back, they heard—
they couldn't help
but lie there wide
awake and hear—
the couple from the next
apartment
                 who
for all they knew
could have been you and her,
go at it longer
                  louder
deeper into the night
than they themselves
had ever thought
was possible?

Alan Shapiro will publish two books in 2011: Night of the Republic, a book of poems, and Broadway Baby, a novel. His last book of poems, Old War, won the 2009 Ambassador Book Award in poetry.