Dinner Theatre



I played Chopin on our grand piano,

languid legato, my mother suffering from radiation poisoning

that burned both the noxious malignancy

and her rage.

We had lived a kitchen sink drama in our

mansion on the hill.

But the set was pure Ibsen.


I was the freak in high school that ran crying

from band practice,

or French class. Ran home to make sure my mother

was still breathing.


Is there anything I can do,

my teacher pleaded so quietly, through dense fog,

as though someone had turned a dial,

the sound down, the picture out of focus,

all kinds of dials meant to be on—

off/ off/ off.


When my mother fell into a coma they

kept me from visiting her. It was melodrama now.

I had no idea what coma meant,

it was just a word after all,

and with no precedent in real life,

imagined her floating, astral travelling—

a gradation of death, (de)gradation of life into something

that wasn’t life anymore




All too soon, the porcelain teacup collection

that had quivered at her rage, sat calmly,

waiting for a civilized tea to be set in the parlour.

Guests had come to pay their respects

for she had always been an effervescent hostess.

And they knew nothing of the quagmire of hostility

that had held us all hostages for all those years.


What I remember of the Shiva is seas of tea

and every description of cake, kumquat preserves on

scones, clotted cream;

for seven days and seven nights we stuffed ourselves

with sweets, while everyone cried

and the bit players tried their best to improvise:

Is there anything I can do?