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Assembling my dining room table before dinner

I used to cut cucumbers with the green knife
and now I use it to dig into the cardboard box—layer
of foam. Layer of plastic. The table: four legs
and a flat square top. I’m tired and made of knees.
All week I’ve been having lamp-lit dinners
at my desk in the corner of the living room
where my life keeps getting more and more spherical.
Remember marble counter at the old apartment
where sometimes I’d ask you to eat with me.
Our mouths were star-crossed and too hungry
to share the same table. Now I eat like a monk.
Taste each morsel and call them “God.”
The new solitude terrifies me. No one knows
where I keep my shoes but me. No one else sees
how I don’t use soap on the plate or how
I lick the fork’s neck clean of dressing. Arrange
bolts and washers by the sink. Discard instructions—
trying to summon a table before it’s time again
to eat singularly. The table is bigger than intended.
Room enough for four people. In an apartment above me
Five people live. Feet raining down across their floor.
Spitting laughs from mouth to mouth. I get on
three legs and struggle with the last. It’s getting dark.
Soon it will be July. Soon I will have a table
with extra chairs. I twist in two more bolts
using the Allen Wrench and find three still left over.
Picture the table collapsing as I set my plate down
but it doesn’t. Remains steady despite what it’s missing.

Robin Gow is a queer and trans poet and Young Adult author from rural Pennsylvania. They are the author of Our Lady of Perpetual Degeneracy (Tolsun Books 2020) and the chapbook Honeysuckle. Their first YA novel, A Million Quiet Revolutions, is forthcoming with FSG Books for Young Readers in 2022.

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