Hazard Faces a Sunday in the Decline by William Meredith

We need the ceremony of one another,
    meals served, more love,
    more handling of one another with love, less
    casting out of those who are not
    of our own household.

    ‘This turkey is either not cooked
    enough or it’s tough.’

The culture is in late imperial decline.
    The children don’t like dark meat or
    pepper. They say the mother sometimes
    deliberately puts pepper on the things
    the grown-ups like better.

    Less casting out of those in our own
    household with whom we disagree.

The cat will not hear of cat food,
    he waves it away. He has seen
    the big thrush taken from the cold
    box, dressed and put in the hot.

    ‘If I set the alarm clock, will you turn
    on the oven when it goes off?’ then
    she went off to see the profane
    dancers of the afternoon. It was done.

The fact that I don’t like his pictures
    should not obscure the facts
    that he is a good man
    that many admire his work (his canvases
    threaten my existence and I hope
    mine his, the intolerant bastard)
    that we are brothers in humanity
    & the art. Often it does, though.

The cat has followed Hazard from his studio,
    he looks mean. He upbraids
    the innocent dog and
    all of us, he casts us out.

    ‘There’s pepper in this gravy. We’re
    supposed to eat dry turkey and you’ve
    put pepper in the gravy.’

The meal is served, nevertheless
    with felt love, some godless benediction.

The grown ones have wine after the other
    bottle. They cast out a lot. ‘The dancers
    this afternoon were, well, thinky,’
    she says. She toys with her glass.

‘He is strictly a one-joke painter,’
    he replies, ‘painted that one twenty
    years ago and is still putting pepper
    on it, ha hah. Finish your turkey
    you two and leave a little gravy for someone else.’

The cat is taking notes against
    his own household. He watches.
    Hazard would like once to see
    things with the cat’s eyes, flat.

Now it is time to go to bed. Hungry
    and alone most go to bed in this
    decline and in all others, yet

Someone has fed us again and blessed us
    with the manners of bohemia. Among barbarians,
    a lot is expected of us, ceremony-wise.
    We rise to that expectation.

William Meredith, “Hazard Faces a Sunday in the Decline” from Effort at Speech: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1997 by William Meredith. Reprinted with the permission of the author and TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, http://nupress.northwestern.edu.

Source: Effort at Speech: New and Selected Poems (1997)

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