“Meditation on a Dining Room Table” by Marvin Artis

Marvin Artis


She wanted warm wood. He wanted the sleek and gleam
of glass and steel. They compromised and brought home
the one with a glass top and a wood base. In the early years,
the new table, standing among graduate school relics, served
as evidence that they had married far more than their marriage
license. The glass and wood held wedding china,
candlelight, dreams and last looks before sex.

Both of them thought it was half-assed, but each pretended to like it.
She hated cleaning it. It was the only thing he liked to clean.
If he noticed a bit of dust clinging, he would whisk it away.
She never did that. Two or three times each year, the marriage
would demand something from each of them, so that it could live.

They divorced. She kept the house and the table in it. Years later
he could recall none of their married furniture in detail, except the table.
He never returned to their home, but he received pictures
of their kids over the years where the table sometimes wandered
into the background. It always surprised him to see it, but each time
it sent a wish up his spine. If only he could know what he didn’t know.
Why didn’t she let it go as she did with so many other things?
Was she the one who cleaned it, or did she usually leave it for one
of the kids to do? Did her hands, which were really beautiful, stroke it
with care or with obligation when she wiped spills and smudges away?
Did she and the table ever sit alone together in the dining room,
her soft palms resting on its firmness, just being with each other in silence?

from Rattle #61, Fall 2018
Tribute to First Publication


Marvin Artis: “One of the things I’m most interested in, in poetry, is the opportunity to connect things that don’t appear to be connected. To bring my own disparate parts together and to also build that infrastructure internally, and then be able to apply that to my relationships with other people. The more connections I can find between disconnected things, the better my connections are with others.”

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