Charles Jarboe
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Dinner's at Eight

Zoya Marincheva


To give directions in the middle of my cooking,

I prop the phone against my shoulder,

And, re-arranging pork ribs over

A lascivious bed of sauerkraut with paprika,

I think about the shortest route home:

Just follow the stream of people

On the highway as the sun swoops down.

Look up through your car window

And notice the eagles mourning the sun.

Where the traffic slows down

For the second time,

Take the exit out on Happystance lane.

Go straight down the street.

Never look around.

Hanging out on porches

Of run-down houses with trashed yards,

People are nonchalant.

Mildly curious.

Do you feel like a piece of salami

Between two fat slices of ghetto

Speeding by as fast as ecstasy?

As you drift into cautious resentment, take the U-turn.

Make sure you notice the pocket in the road.

It's your ticket to ascension.

Merge into the farthest right lane

And quickly swerve to the right -

The right redefines us today -

To the promontory point of our destiny,

Your destination, the dinner.

Crawl up the hill and keep your nose up.

Avoid the delicate smell of road-kill

Or the memory of racing cars.

You should have noticed by now

That we live on two highways -

Two serpentines drawing the boundaries.

Pressing the gas will separate

You from the flood plains.

Then lean back in your seat and enjoy

A rare patch of wild bush

The widest street you've ever seen,

The brightest red bricks.

Exuberant blooming trees.

Then peek through

the windows of my neighbors:

their minimalist apartments,

their sensible couches:

single black mothers,

young Indian couples,

sporty black fraternities,

overcrowded Mexican families,

overweight white housewives.

A wealthy bunch, I know.

Their wealth is their bravery.

United by the creak in the pipes,

The footwork of a house chore dance.

All within an earshot distance.

The kingdom of the eagles

Is small but dignified.

We don't like to cross paths,

We stare not at each other,

Not knowing what has brought us together,

Knowing it's not success.

Living with rabbits, raccoons and coyotes

Several hundred feet

Above the rats and the mud

We are happy in Eagle-land

Where people move in and out

In less than six months,

Filtering  up and down,

Cents to nickels, nickels to cents.

You'll like the ribs,

The sour flavor.

For a salad, I am throwing together

Lettuce, tomatoes,

Cucumbers, onions,

Peppers and radishes.

Eating vegetables of color

Is healthy.

Dinner's at eight.

Sure, bring wine - semi-sweet.

We'll be drinking,


Toasting the future

Within everyone's earshot.


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