Poetry by M. Curran

Meg Curran is a writer and editor from Georgia, USA, and is currently based outside of Oslo, Norway. She holds an undergraduate degree in French and intercultural studies and has masters-level education in human rights and multiculturalism. Most of her research and writing focuses on culture, heritage, belonging, and food.

When Gabrielle Hamilton asks what to bring

You say Nothing! and mean it this time. It’s not real, so
you can do that and hope she’ll stop haunting you this
way. It’s enough, there’s plenty, I just want you, to eat
with you. Jesus, why are you crying? How did the small,
hot thing find a place in your throat again? You see, the
problem is the table. It’s an issue of scale, although it
shouldn’t be. Your place is small, and yet it’s like the
thing is shrinking by the day. It’s gotten bad. Enough
that your dining room that is also a living room now
dwarfs it. It’s too small, it’s a disaster, it’s repellent, and
suddenly the only thing that matters is replacing it. She
wanted round tables, big tables, six-people tables, eight-
tops and you do too.Fill the place, burst the seams. The
end of the world is about to start and you can’t believe you’re
spending it in a kitchen with no air conditioning. Roll the
dough, stamp the dough, screech the copper cutter across
the steel countertop. There’s no time for nostalgia so quit
trying. Quit watching the regulars, quit watching them
watch you. Pitiful, the way you want to warm up, step
into the slatted light and feel it, sun streaming in through
the front French doors. Stack the chairs, the plates, the
napkins. Empty the walk in, empty the bins. Divide it up.
Take it, I know it’s too much, but I’ll throw it out if you
don’t––and it’s not an empty threat, so you do. What
she doesn’t offer is the table, but you need it more, also
it’ll be a long while before anyone notices. On the stolen
table, unstack the plates, smooth the napkins. Your mom
saw the guest list and wondered if it just seemed a little
long. It’s just––a hundred people? In the dining room that
is also a living room? But the table fits and they will too
and you know it’ll be cramped and that’s the point. It’s
a dinner party, which is an intimacy, which is a theatre,
which is an excess. It’s all you’ve wanted. What else
do you want? To hear Greg rattle the ice. More than that,
to be him––and you don’t even know the man. But pace
yourself. Guests stream in, and all the doorbell ringing and
door opening and shutting is driving someone nuts. They
prop open your front door like it’s their own­­––and it is,
now––and they’re all saying the same thing––oh, how
we’ve waited, oh, these long idle weeks. It’s the dinner
party of the century probably. Someone’s thirsty for
something, finally. Now’s your chance. You’re pouring
colorful things into chilled glasses and there’s clinking
and there’s rattling and you knew the practice would
pay off and finally, finally, you get to be Greg. He’s here
somewhere, probably, and proud. Tells you It’s good,
delicious even, and I love that you distilled hope into
something drinkable, though I thought there’d be more
tequila involved. Meanwhile another someone praises
the live band, which is funny since there was that two-
for-one deal on the table, which explains the old-but-
new-to-you stereo system in the corner of the room. You
must’ve misheard, or maybe he can’t see it for the crowd.
But he, tall, stretches out his arm over the sea of heads,
points to the five strangers with instruments, which
explains the sporadic clapping from the past hour. Yet
another someone suggests that the floor might cave in.
You blink then laugh. After everything, surely they
wouldn’t take this from you, too. You all fit around the
table––like you knew you would––so laden with food
that it might collapse too. The closeness of it means you’re
all bumping elbows and drinking from the wrong glasses,
and it’s exactly what you wanted. Peel shrimp over the
surface, strewn with stock-logged newspaper. Pass the beers
down. Dodge the pots of seafood dumped onto the table
over your shoulder. Pick shards of shells and gritty spices
out from under your fingernails. Tie flimsy plastic bibs
around your neighbor’s neck. Marvelous that you got it all
in the end, that it’s so intimate it should be appalling, that
there is endless space at the table for friends and strangers
alike––so many that there aren’t quite enough chairs.

Author note: Composed after reading Gabrielle Hamilton’s essay “My Restaurant Was My Life for 20 Years. Does the World Need It Anymore?” Italicized phrases are borrowed from the piece.

From the Editor:

We hope that readers receive In Parentheses as a medium through which the evolution of human thought can be appreciated, nurtured and precipitated. It will present a dynamo of artistic expression, journalism, informal analysis of our daily world, entertainment of ideas considered lofty and criticism of today’s popular culture. The featured content does not follow any specific ideology except for that of intellectual expansion of the masses.

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In Parentheses Magazine (Volume 7, Issue 3) Winter 2022

By In Parentheses in IP Volume 7

32 pages, published 1/15/2022

The Winter 2022 issue of In Parentheses Literary Magazine. Published by In Parentheses (Volume 7, Issue32)

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