Saturday 10 August 2013

Poetry 2013 Shortlist, Siddhartha Lal

Scenes from a Lonely Dinner

Ladies and gentlemen, can I have your attention, please?
Ah, much better.
Tonight, we won’t be serving our excellent pinot noir,
for we fear that inebriated conversations,
piping to the rhythm of the soft tinkle of delicate cutlery
and held captive by four courses of the finest Italian cuisine,
often result in confidences being shared too easily and
inhibitions being shed at the slightest hint of
a touch;
one slip is all it takes for
this night of loneliness to culminate in a crescendo of muffled moans and suppressed sighs.
And while restless lips, looking for some semblance of escape,
are drowned in desire,
the morning after stands a silent witness to
an ancient shame
as shadows of the night,
who had morphed into one,
quietly slip away into the
anonymity of the light.
We shall not have some half-famous and already forgotten rock band
distracting our troubled patrons from their errant thoughts
or their murmured vows of silence —
thoughts that have now begun to run haywire in circles,
in turn
struggling, strangling, and stimulating.
Our well-trained busboys will refrain from making any offhand remarks
that might unwittingly provide you with an insight
into the human condition that has so far escaped your keen intellect
and, what is even worse, prevent you from swallowing
that painless pill tonight.
In anticipation of lengthy conversations with oneself,
and considering the glazed look in the umpteen eyes that scan this weary space,
we have suitably dimmed the lights in this singular establishment
so that the other distressed faces here,
stuck in a world of isolation and
creased by concerns, real as well as imaginary,
are ultimately lost in the swirling haze of smoke and loneliness
and are alienated beyond redemption,
denying you of the guilty comfort
that is often found in ignorance and the mock familiarity of ordinary company.
Ladies and gentlemen, you wear the scars of a million battles with dignity.
Your disdain for emotion and mere existence is matched
only by the relentless assault of your own conscience
and, in keeping with the timeless tradition here, we welcome you all tonight
to the company of your own solitude
and a heavenly ride through silence.
Thank you for listening.
Bon app├ętit.

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