June 24, 2011

Mario Chard

THE BARREL

What would the prison cook who made the rapist’s last meal cook finally for himself? What could it matter that from his window he looked like other men who leavened their hands in dish water? That even before he ate he filled the sink until the water burned his fingers. A rag laid out for drying. The steam stumbling from a train south of Mar del Plata, a girl sleeps without wishing to, wakes to an arm that pulls her through a door into Miramar, blinks beside the man who woke her, not her father, though to others he looks as though he were, a man with his daughter, the daughter does not speak, only cries when later, in a restaurant, he gives her a menu she cannot read and makes her order his plate like a catalogue of every meal that could have filled it. How his wife loved artichokes, left her bowl out for the leaves. How she kept record of every meal. How when he felt it right to kneel beside the table, the unmoved silver, give thanks, the words swelled in his mouth as if he spoke them in a barrel, like a victim must with little choice left but where to rest her hands.

from Rattle #34, Winter 2010

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Mario Chard: “Like all poets, I suppose, it’s difficult to discuss a poem that you feel is its own answer. What I can say about ‘The Barrel’ is that it still haunts me, and I’m not quite sure I’ll ever decide, if given the choice, on what meal I’d choose for my last. I think I’d be grateful for at least the choice. Isn’t that always the first thing taken from a victim? I wish this poem had the power to give that back.” (website)