Four hours of work paid for this.
A lady sits to my left, hair like plastic,
coifed with hours of hairspray, hours
of time. I hear her whispering
about our clothes, words like ratty
and poor. I rip cubes of beef
with my fingers, let cooked juices
and pepper roll down my fingers
to the edges of my wife’s lips.
If she hears, I can’t tell. But she tears
shrimp from kabobs, pulls the looped flesh
over to me, shares what is on her plate.
We don’t know what merlot means,
or cabernet, but we have the dark one,
a glass of the blood-colored wine
for each of us. There is just this
moment, the black decor of the restaurant,
the angled stares of people, the group
of teens to our left flipping through blackberrys,
through photos stored on cell phones,
plates heavy with uneaten food. I let it all go.
I keep only the crunch of grilled vegetables,
the tang of the wine, spoons dipping
into dessert, my wife kissing
off a spot I missed with my napkin.