Closing Time at the Second Avenue Deli
This is the time of night at the delicatessen
when the manager is balancing
a nearly empty ketchup bottle
upside-down on a nearly full ketchup bottle
and spreading his hands slowly away
from the perfect balance like shall I say
a priest blessing the balance, the achievement
of perfect emptiness, of perfect fullness? No,
this is a kosher delicatessen. The manager
is not like. He is not like a priest,
he is not even like a rabbi, he
is not like anyone else except the manager
as he turns to watch the waitress
discussing the lamb stew with my wife,
how most people eat the whole thing,
they don’t take it home in a container,
as she mops up the tables, as the
cashier shall I say balances out?
No. The computer does all that. This
is not the time for metaphors. This is the time
to turn out the lights, and yes,
imagine it, those two ketchup bottles
will stand there all night long
as acrobatic metaphors of balance,
of emptiness, of fullness perfectly contained,
of any metaphor you wish unless
the manager snaps his fingers at the door,
goes back, and separates them for the night
from that unnatural balance, and the store goes dark
as my wife says should we take a cab
or walk, the stew is starting to drip already.
Shall I say that the container can not
contain the thing contained anymore? No.
Just that the lamb stew is leaking all across town
in one place: it is leaking on the floor of the taxi-cab,
and that somebody is going to pay for this ride.
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