The table, again (23 September)

Plunging through the slanting doorway
Into open arms and customary greetings:
Lips grease stubbled cheeks and vice versa,
While open palms meet firm backs,
Shoulders are vice-gripped amidst
Easy monosyllables and nervous laughter.

Trying to beeline for the lounge they are
Interrupted by the usual diversions as
Reunion transforms into museum tour,
Strangers reviewing this curated inversion of
Familiar walls, spaces, faces
Blanked and redecorated.

Cautiously, each sentry resumes
Their former place as added chairs
Accordion old order into new formation.
Question, answer, nod, pause.
Again, but with more hesitation
As fingers form unseen knots, trace time.

Coffee? No, the other one.
Bag drifts, slides into the cup:
Drowning, sinking, rising, drowning
Like some bobbing body coming unstrung.
All the pieces now arrange themselves
In three-card monte played sotto voce.

They wait
Concealed within the mist
For the first misheard word,
For mistake or miscalculation,
A chance to pounce with vicious claws
On suspecting prey.

Settling steam condenses these windowed lives
Admitting storied stains, dusty residue and
More double layers than a Tim Tam
Not in this house!
But instead they sip it in,
This new civilised, suppressive brew.

Knowing the centre cannot hold
And all that
Blah blah blah
Back and forth, back and forth
They push friction aside
With small talk, small words.

A slow exhale across the water’s surface
Skims heat off the top.
From the yard a black dog rears up
With jolting cries, a Lego figurine
Assembled from a million fuzzy fragments.
A toast!

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