A Wary Distance

Richard King Perkins II

Their luncheon; ceremonial at best.
Mother and daughter chat over French onion soup
and club sandwiches, trying to find the mysterious
ground that once seemed so common. Conversation
ranges only to topics that maintain a wary distance:
Politics, economics and plans for future travel.
Ensuing laughter is a bit too sharp, a little too loud.

At a nearby table, an old woman gags and spits up
her food. Everyone is listening, watching in a way
where heads don’t move, playing let’s pretend
we’re not fascinated by this inevitable suffering.

It’s an ideal moment for empathy; a whisper or sigh,
a silent nod of the head. Instead, an ill-tamed silence.
This is what we have forgotten about each other.
Why they must quickly move apart if their legs brush
beneath the table, why they can’t sip from the same
glass. Fully shunning the unfolded scene, Mom
suggests sailing to Bermuda and the laughter is a
trifle louder, elusively comfortable in this cultured-state;
to know what is feared so much more intimately than
that which we hope to love.

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