(After Ben Johnson)
When you are next in town, I would be honored, sir,
if you would dine with me. I have a small place,
a little shabby perhaps, but cosy. The lamps
glow soft and warm, and with the curtains drawn,
you’d think you were in some New York or Paris bistro.
I would serve you something humble first,
home-made hummus, say, with warmed bread,
salad from the local farmer’s market, tasty
green beans, roast chicken, with peach
and honey sauce, rice—and wine, of course.
For dessert, I would offer my apple pie with cream.
And I would have Schubert playing, something quiet and sweet,
with a touch of sadness, to remind us of all life’s delicacies.
And I could read to you, or sing, or we could both sing,
or you could recite poems over cognac or coffee or tea.
And we could talk, of extraordinary or ordinary things.
For there is something to be said for the quiet, daily ritual
of breaking bread, for the discussion a meal engenders—
nothing fancy, neither food nor talk, just the old
stories, the old good-natured teasing between friends.
I don’t think Horace or Homer and his Odysseus
would disagree that at such moments people
are at their best, that spirited conversation over lunch,
or dinner or tea, or even breakfast, may be the essence
of humanity. Sir, let’s put this theory to the test.