The Diner

The short-order cook and the dishwasher
argue the relative merits
of Rilke's Elegies
against Eliot's Four Quartets,
but the delivery man who brings eggs
suggests they have forgotten Les fleurs
du mal and Baudelaire. The waitress
carrying three plates and a coffee pot
can't decide whom she loves more--
Rimbaud or Verlaine,
William Blake or William Wordsworth.
She refills the rabbi's cup
(he's reading Rumi),
asks what he thinks of Arthur Whaley.
In the booth behind them, a fat woman
feeds a small white poodle in her lap,
with whom she shares her spoon.
"It's Rexroth's translations of the Japanese,"
she says, "that one can't live without:
May those who are born after me
Never travel such roads of love."
The revolving door proffers
a stranger in a long black coat, lost in the madhouse poems of John Clare.
As he waits to be seated,
the woman who owns the place
hands him a menu
in which he finds several handwritten poems
By Hafiz, Gibran, and Rabindranath Tagore.
The lunch hour's crowded--
the owner wonders
if the stranger might share
my table. As he sits,
I put a finger to my lips,
and with my eyes ask him
to listen with me
to the young boy and the young girl
two tables away
taking turns reading aloud
the love poems of Pablo Neruda.