Friday, March 22, 2019

Closing Time at the Second Avenue Deli by Alan Dugan

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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