You want to eat at a place
with a busy turnover, where the cook
wears a shirt and the wait staff
isn’t mopping out the sewer drains.
You’ve been looking for so long now
but on this dusty, shadeless motorway
there is an almost admirable
defiance; restaurants clinging
to the road’s edge like last year’s
Christmas decorations, their greeters
smiling through the 40-degree heat.
At last, you choose one with subtitles
and push open the 80-pound glass door
into an environment so chilled
it borders the erotic. The hairs
under the sweat-soaked parts
of your clothes grow rigid as you sit
in the dark and sip tepid water
from a glass you’ve ordered with no ice.
The photos in the sticky menu
are pixelated impressions, and the English
underneath is either Roget’s dreams perverted,
or his most perverted dreams realized:
Danger! Perilous Hotplate!!
No rabbit because of sore reason.
A single adventurous taste-bud cries out
for dog, but you settle for chicken
in the soup you’ve picked. When the waiter signals
that this is a spicy dish, you assure him
with your most sincere gestures
that you know exactly what you are doing.
And when the steaming pot is placed before you
you wonder, briefly, why they
would add cranberries to chicken soup.
The waiter backs away slowly
as you clumsily add bean sprouts
and the stir the pot; the dye, you think
from those scarlet little berries
turning the broth a fiery red.
copyright 2007 Rocco de Giacomo
As appeared in Catching Dawn’s Breath (LyricalMyrical Press, Toronto)