For Anthony Bourdain
No one suspects us with our windy manes and fresh tattoos
at the dinner table. Our sharp knives. The eye contact
almost like certainty, a pilot’s calm broadcast on another
turbulent flight. Listen: I crossed an ocean to feel
at home with strangers. I crossed
another. Cash-poor, I poured olive oil in a pan,
sizzled. Foraged a feast. Laughed like I meant it.
Popped the cork, sniffed ripe vinegar
and the briny pant of the kitchen door swinging
to the song of the street, dirty light
like butter melting into the cracks
of faces, each well-traveled beginner brimming
from their journey around the room. I got it,
I thought, whatever it is evaporating,
a hot white wine. An aftertaste of acid
when, creaking a chair, I finally sit to dine
with myself. In this mapless country. In the restaurant
where the oak table stretches like a life I can’t believe
I survived. I can’t see the head. The end
beyond the blood oranges and soft red beef, always
a raw cut for us tough kids who know the best
Phili Cheesesteak is in New Jersey and, rolling
our own spliffs, raise them stiff as middle fingers,
blow smoke at what hurts. What hurts sucks
a fish bone, dings teeth on whiskey tumbler. Waits
for my appetite to return. I don’t speak the language
here, have no flipbook of phrases translating
I’m tired, where’s the door, a way out.
I look to you but you left while I was busy
salting an empty plate. You found the better party,
a conversation without boundary
in parts unknown. I rub time like rosemary.
Inhale the miasma of my palms. Hope this
small flesh holds me over until tomorrow.
Clare Welsh is a writer and photographer based in New Orleans. Her work has appeared in Offbeat Magazine, McSweeney’s, Southern Glossary, Nailed Magazine, and other places in print and online. Her chapbook Chimeras is available through Finishing Line Press. She is currently working on a full length poetry book about wild dogs.
Image by @Bourdain.