after John Ashbery
We waited, tablecloths immaculate, crystal polished, anything but socially
unacceptable, while the servers remained ensconced in permafrost, distant
for fear of leaving bread crumbs or a blob of butter on whatever horizon
we wanted to behold. A good meal can cure you if it doesn’t first kill you—
any medical professional worth Escoffier will attest to this. A great repast
was the least of our worries as wine flowed and arsenic was politely refused,
not wanting to curb our appetites for the true poison—or, barring this, a shot
or cocktail from the bar of medicinal wonders. We were under the impression
as fine diners that the plague would not touch us. It’s a mannered pandemic,
after all—we could enjoy and finish our meal before we stopped breathing—
and if there isn’t civility in a mass emergency, where are the dinner mints
for the autopsy? Were efficacy numbers overcooked, salmon underpoached?
There was something wanting in the flavor. Not enough dill? We so wanted
to taste an ideal cure. Was the strychnine served with coffee real or imitation?
Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who earned an MFA from California State University, Long Beach while working as an in-home health-care provider, a profession he continues to this day. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and is available from Tebor Bach Publishing.