Katharyn Howd Machan

HOW TO EAT IN THE HOUSE OF DEATH

Bring a pie made of roses, crust cut
out in tiny hearts to let the heat
escape. Use a strong plate
stained by decades of baking
by a mother who smoked too much.

At all costs, come alone. If
you ask a lover to join you
your lips will not touch again.

Walk through the door smiling, greet
your host with the silver toupee. His
wife will graciously take your coat,
lead you to the wine. Pour first
from the bottle with a thin green neck,
tip your glass to the light, then
reach for the crystal decanter brimming
with the wings of a thousand bees.

On no condition, raise a toast. If
you utter a syllable of thanks
you will swallow your tongue forever.

Join the others. Men with moustaches,
women in tweed and satin suits,
tasteful frills in their hair. When
you are introduced to him, welcome
the guest of honor to your city
and notice his bedroom eyes.

Without fail, make no jokes. If
you try to charm anyone with laughter
your mouth will disappear.

Approach the table spread with platters
and bowls. Lilies light it, fragrant candles.
Spoon some of everything onto your plate,
exclaiming compliments. Demand to know
who made the potted pig’s breath, the bread
in the shape of revenge. Give modestly
the list of spices you mixed. Sit
and talk and eat and eat
until one more swallow will kill you.

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