Proper Etiquette for the First Year of Mourning – Jacqueline Jules

I felt a pressure to behave.

Like a child learning manners
in a grand dining room
with a governess watching
if I sniffled in my soup
or used my napkin
to blow my nose.

I kept my elbows off the table,
chewed with my mouth closed,
never licked the knife,
or held my fork like a shovel.

Instead, I nibbled tiny bites
as upright and silently as possible.

No one praised me for it.
Or even seemed to notice.

Now, as my appetite slowly returns
I wonder if it is polite
to mention how my hand trembled
in those first months
when passing the butter plate,
how difficult it was to remember
which fork to use first,
how I restrained myself
from cutting meat to shreds,
screeching as I scratched the china.

Jacqueline JulesJacqueline Jules is the author of three chapbooks, Field Trip to the Museum (Finishing Line Press), Stronger Than Cleopatra (ELJ Publications), and Itzhak Perlman’s Broken String, winner of the 2016 Helen Kay Chapbook Prize from Evening Street Press. Her poetry has appeared in over 100 publications including The Broome Review, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Hospital Drive, and Imitation Fruit. She is also the author of 40 books for young readers. Visit