The Second Menu

/ /

The other land, where we once imagined this one,
the land where our names need no explanation,

asserts its life through pinned paper strips
that speak to insiders, with prices in Arabic.

Anyone can be a member, but few bother.
Those who try can soon discern the general picture:

sliver, bun, treasure, flesh, dweller of the sea.
Aside from the occasional “barbarian,” nobody

gets insulted. That menu, on the wall, not hiding,
divides modes of seeing, divides kitchen and dining,

yet is a bridge. One can cross or not-cross the lake.
One can be afraid although it has no dog, no snake.

Those reside in the zodiac, some of which
we eat – rooster, ox, sheep, hare, pig –

and one of which we know to be a fiction.
Like anyone, we have skeptics and aversions.

Some of us can’t read the wall, and gesture
to describe the omelette-like thing with oysters

or that plate of everything good, in a noodle nest.
We can be as inarticulate as the next guest,

obediently staying on this side of the wall,
even if we have at some point eaten most or all

of its offerings. If invited to the other side,
which we are not, we would surely be dismayed

to see a row of men in hats, white coats,
and oily clouds, shouting orders, making jokes,

and not a garden of poets and calligraphers
sipping fine tea, chatting with our ancestors.