(modernity)

He sits at the antique walnut trestle’s head, lifts his lapel carnation to inhale in a crisp blue one-button with precise pinstripes while around him the smelly guests lick the platters & each other, lifting dogs to laps–who brings a beast to a meal except Americans & Caligula–to have at the rashers & the eggs like shocked wide eyes, them drunk at sunup, cognac & tobacco & cocaine, & wiping knives on the ivory damask table cover; they spit & swear & grab, eat with fingers or put faces to plates–one grabs the ham from the salver with teeth, breathing all over the meat, long hair in the grease, all shaggy & tangled & pouch eyes & up all night & here to continue the eternal ongoing quest to discover a more subterranean route than that which they currently travel, one screams for organs & another shatters crystal, & as another sprays Moet backward one stabs a pear with a switchblade that’s come from nowhere–& he just stared, occasionally taking a sip of pale tea from the bone Delft or a discrete bite of surgically sectioned yolk & bread, the enameled yellow mixing with the rough ochre sourdough grain imported for today & he chews with care, noting in one bent double beside him to jab two forks in some bare foot the cheap seamwork of the bright pants, three clashing fabrics raveningly stitched in arrogant aping of what he does, & on the white cloth a wet spreading tongue of spilled dark like fascism on a map moves tidally at him, & he thinks about writing in his diary, & what he’ll say about manners, & one he believes plays the drums, the others of unclear provenance, & he wonders about lunch & this world, the one in which he finds himself, & dabs at lips with his linen, prepares a face to excuse himself as he back from his place at table–but the colors on that coat–the cobalt & roan, titian & verdigris, bisque & smalt: they couldn’t say the names, but that velvet nova he sees in the dark on the stairs all the way down, frowning.

 

 


Ed Taylor is the author of the novel Theo (2014), the poetry collection Idiogest, and the poetry chapbook The Rubaiyat of Hazmat. His fiction, poetry, essays, journalism, and reviews have appeared in a variety of publications in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia; and in anthologies in the U.S. and U.K.