Old Man Eating Alone in a Chinese Restaurant
I am glad I resisted the temptation,
if it was a temptation when I was young,
to write a poem about an old man
eating alone at a corner table in a Chinese restaurant.
I would have gotten it all wrong
thinking: the poor bastard, not a friend in the world
and with only a book for a companion.
He'll probably pay the bill out of a change purse.
So glad I waited all these decades
to record how hot and sour the hot and sour
soup is here at Chang's this afternoon
and how cold the Chinese beer in a frosted glass.
And my book –– José Saramago's Blindness
as it turns out –– is so absorbing that I look up
from its escalating horrors only
when I am stunned by one of his gleaming sentences.
And I should mention the light
that falls through the big windows this time of the day
italicizing everything it touches ––
the plates and teapots, the immaculate tablecloths,
as well as the soft brown hair of the waitress
in the white blouse and short black skirt,
the one who is smiling now as she bears a cup of rice
and shredded beef with garlic to my favorite table in the corner.
Published by courtesy of Billy Collins
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