Frederick Pollack

Those Who Come Late

Most of the mini-quiches and puff pastries
are gone. Some scraps of lox
and watercress, crumbs, capers cling
to far-flung trays. Strips of Havarti
and uninspired cheddar lie like cards
of an abandoned game on the big platter.
Wine remains and, in melting ice,
a few bottles. For some reason the cooler
rests beside the stereo playing whatever,
victorious now over voices.

There may have been a remark, a relationship
audibly fraying, someone who shouldn’t
drink drinking; or, unusually,
a conversation drawing in more
than two or three, a common baleful
background preoccupation seeping forward.
Or perhaps the mood is the normal one
when a party breaks up gradually
and those who missed a chance now wish
perversely to be the last to go.

They pet the dogs, who slept throughout
at their frontiers, and are more interested
now in illicit food than in the smells
of late-arriving or late-leaving humans.
And the cat feels safe or bored enough
to appear, though always, of course,
near exits. Someone says
he read somewhere that cats don’t really
deserve their reputation
as ratters. “Not only in cities – in barns.
On farms. They’re afraid of the teeth.”

© Frederick Pollack

Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS (Story Line Press), and two collections, A POVERTY OF WORDS (Prolific Press, 2015) and LANDSCAPE WITH MUTANT (Smokestack Books, UK, 2018). Many other poems are in print and online journals.

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