The Dinner Party

pushing food around on my plate
pretending to eat
I’m not, despite appearances,
actually at the table

Laila my border collie mix
knows this,

head resting on paws
eyes following my every move

a dinner for twelve
round table conversation

shouldn’t I say something,
as host?

make record of my presence
and thoughts regarding
our place and time
in the world

an acknowledgement of
current political woes,
pathetic misgoverning,
the awful slights and outrage

but when George talks over me
I gratefully smile

another sentence
followed by another and another

I nod at these gifts

I left my body two hours ago
no longer in the room

finishing wine and desert
with my guests

I’m out in the front yard
at the edge of the forest

standing at the apple trees
denuding branches with

three of the most enchanting does
I’ve ever had the pleasure of

what is he saying at the table?
who could care?
asking me a question?

including me in the conversation?
I nod again, hoping that’s enough

I’m laughing with my does in the yard
eyes twinkling, ears twitching

Laila watches me because she knows
I’m elsewhere, the little front teeth on her
lower jaw white and all in a row

she’d adore being included,
cavorting, biting into apples…

but I give her a stern glance:
Please! I’m on my own tonight!

a late august star streams across the sky
with an elaborate tail in slow motion

Chrystal, the oldest doe and my favorite
stands on her hind legs, motioning me forward
with a shiny hoof

I step up to Chrystal, grabbing on
to her elegantly narrow wrists we

begin a kind of tango
in front of the lichen specked stone wall

on freshly cut grass

she lets her head tilt back on her neck
at the pleasure of it

I’m wonderfully alive

the scent of her
pungent and peppery

she jerks suddenly
back down on all fours

the two other does move behind her

I look over my shoulder to see Laila
watching us black tight and jealous

with a rasp and whirl of annoyance
Chrystal and her friends bound
into the forest branches
cracking sharply

Laila’s eyes plead

I extend a finger, pointing

tail between her legs,
she complies
opening the screen door
sullen and
disappearing inside the house

perhaps my dinner guests have
noticed my absence

they are beginning to say
their goodbyes:

what a lovely evening
you do it so impeccably!

we must see you again soon…

I step into the forest:
pitch pine needles and oak leaves
making the most glorious air
on the planet

a series of low vibrations
float on the dense darkness,
a undulating gorgeous sound

it’s Bennie a great horned owl I know

cupping hands, blowing through
my thumbs I call back

feeling the stir of his expanse
gliding overhead

he settles high in an oak

grabbing onto branches
I shimmy up to his perch

that he remains on the same branch
both of us listening to the rush of stillness

is acknowledgement enough

he leans forward
hanging suspended in the soft air
for the briefest of moments

before accelerating towards the
forest floor

talons sinking
through brown fur and hide,

muscle, ribs on a delicate
spine easily snapped

and then next to me again
digging into the rabbit’s flank

enjoying the warmth and taste

a severed hind leg drops
on the branch; I pick it up

recognizing the generosity
chewing salty sinewy flesh
to the tendons and bone

minutes slip by
or is it longer?

before he pushes off into
a patchwork of deep green

and I’m
standing on the carpet of needles

full to brim

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