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Prairie Schooner 80.3 (2006) 32-34

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Diet, and: The End of the Holidays


I wonder what you must have been like
at sixteen or seventeen – beautiful,
no doubt, but even then (those terrified eyes)

afraid of what you knew you didn't
know, of what you guessed and what
you kept at bay – the way you kept

the boys away by asking them to come
close, come closer. It is still all there
in your eyes, but I am old enough to know

such tricks, the way you've teased life
itself into a corner, like a cat a mouse,
playing with it – thinking at any time

you could end the game any way you
wanted. You ate words for the sake
of poems and swallowed them so hard

it hurt to watch. Now you have grown
thin. You take a cracker or two for lunch,
nibble several bites for dinner. We never

talk of anything edible. You wear the
same suit you wore thirty years ago,
the day I first saw you – all in black [End Page 32]

in a stark white room, reading with such
a hush we all held our breath. Your words
echoed in our heads as if they were our own.

But, then and now, you never noticed
us, or anyone else. Now, I want to say
gorge yourself, my dear. Get up

in the middle of the night and raid
the refrigerator. Go out for an early
breakfast. Have a large lunch at a deli.

Do this every day, for weeks, months.
Eat. Eat everything. Do not let me hear
from you again until you are fat –

you who have always been famous
for your metaphors of starvation.

The End of the Holidays

I started down to breakfast when the smell
of coffee came slinking up the stairs the way
Mary often did – making me hide until she
gave up looking for me. She would never
admit to anything later. The others came
down one by one. Henry and Anne entered [End Page 33]

individually although all of us suspected
that they spent nights together, and I watched
them switch glances over the toast and touch
hands on the jam jar as they passed it around
to me. After breakfast everybody disappeared
rather quickly. I wandered out and tossed

a stick for George, and found a blue egg
near a fence post and gave it to Alice – who
frowned, but put it in her pocket. On the way
back to my room, I saw the attic door opened.
It was usually locked and barred but I didn't
think much about it until later when someone

said John had fallen in the courtyard and was
dead – not just drunk – and everyone went
outside and stood and stared and wondered
what had happened, and then the old stories
about spirits started up again because John's
face looked like he'd seen a ghost, Sarah said.

Mary said his horse was safe in the barn, but he
had been worked hard, into a sweat. No one knew
where John had been, although anyone could
guess. I didn't mention the unlocked attic door.
Someone went for the minister. It was quiet
all afternoon – and no games after dinner.

William Virgil Davis is the author of One Way to Reconstruct the Scene, which won the Yale Younger Poets Prize. His poems appear in Agenda, AGNI, Hotel Amerika, the Gettysburg Review, and the Georgia Review, among others.



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