Characters treading not quite level pine
Boards number, first, Carafe, who’s sweating beads
Of coolant on her Delft-blue leaves and birds.
Then enter Sirloin, crusty, rare, supine,
Giving his aromatic agony
Away in pink tears drained into the dark
Platter’s symmetrically branching tree.
Sharp Knife starts bantering with Mrs. Fork—
Quips and metallic comments re Parsnip,
The fossil he’s been trying to butter up.
Pepper’s gambits are pungent, but poor Salt
Gets maudlin as the meal slows to a halt.
And now the attentive, worn-out Napkins, who move
Toward lips whose service, too, resembles love.
Alfred Corn's 10th book of poems, Tables, will be published this January. He spent the earlier part of this year as a visiting fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge, working on a new version of Rilke's Duino Elegies.