May 17, 2020

Gary Leising

FIVE MANNEQUINS AND ONE PERSON AT THE SOCIALLY DISTANCED DINING ROOM

A Proposal

I’m down before you on my bended knee
Offering a ring. Diners strain to hear me speak.
My hat, white suit, and words, circa 1940,
All fold before you as I bend my knee
And ask your hand. The war worries the country
And we might all be dead within a week.
I’m down before you on a bended knee
Offering this ring. I strain and strain to speak.

 

An Observing Woman at Another Table

More interested in the butter than this scene,
My affianced appears to count the fork tine
By tine. My lump of a man slumps over the cuisine
More interested in plain butter than this scene,
And all meal long not a word passed between
My love and I. The waiter poured wine and wine.
More interested in the butter than this scene
My affianced appears as dull as the fork tine.

 

The Man Who Wants to Leave

My hat is on the table; I know it’s unmannerly,
But le garcon keeps passing, passing us by.
The little wife says, “We have nowhere to be,
Take your hat off the table; it’s unmannerly.”
“I’m stubborn, lady.” “Be patient, why can’t you be
patient?” Her cheeks quiver, she’s going to cry.
My hat is on the table; I know it’s unmannerly.
So, dammit, is the garcon passing passing us by.

 

The Man Seated Alone

I don’t know why I’m here, but I’ve nowhere else to be
And so I sit, food gone, bill paid. I’m not wanted
By anyone, not my wife or kids, not the maître d’.
No one wants me here, but I’ve nowhere else to be
Except among the non-living, all of them like me.
The world is still and fine, it’s only me that’s haunted.
I don’t know why I’m here, where I don’t want to be,
And so I sit, bill paid, food gone, and know I’m not wanted.

 

The Lone Human Diner

I wait for them to move, resume their lives.
Will one raise the water glass to her lips?
A roomful of fake hands rest by shiny knives.
I wait for them to move, resume their lives,
Stroll outside to see what from before survives,
How the world changed during the apocalypse.
I wait for them to move, resume their lives.
Will she please raise a glass to her lips?

 

The Woman Being Asked the Question

Ten thousand tomorrows hang on my reply,
Some bad some good in the yes or no I give.
Can he see the future like a filmstrip in my eye?
Ten thousand tomorrows hang on my reply,
Possible lives I accept, other ones I must deny.
Will this be the rut-stuck existence I have to live?
Ten thousand tomorrows hang on my reply,
Some good some bad—no or yes? I give.

from Poets Respond
May 17, 2020

__________

Gary Leising: “As I read about this restaurant opening with mannequins to fill empty tables, I thought about how many of us may have felt like mannequins, our lives stilled over the past months. So I thought I’d try to enter the voices of the mannequins in this article’s photo. Using a fixed form with a refrain seemed natural, because there’s so much repetition in pandemic, stay-at-home times.” (web)

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