The Standard

At the Standard they pay a man to lathe olive wood
into the softball-sized spheres they load the braziers with

in the heat of early afternoon. They douse them with gas, touch
a match: and the guests with their crow faces

and sky-colored suits emerge
to sip from tiny eggshell glasses.

Orchids lean out from jute baskets lashed
to the palm trunks, lit from below they flutter

like moths—undesperate, and the guests
look exactly the same age, their fingertips linger

on each other’s forearms as they form tender
careless sentences, which diffuse,

and though even their shivers are languorous, delicious, Eugenio says
you can tell from the way they dip

the big shrimps in green sauce and nibble
the creamy meat down, an inch at a time

that they never have sex;
and if I observe how they let their napkins drop

on the gravel, how they drift down the path to dinner
I’ll know who has just recognized himself in a stranger,

calmly; whose torso is squeezed by a wordless joy;
who feels like a child; who a cloud;

and who aches, as she steps back onto the cool tiles of the arcade
in thin sandals, to be broken down again,

annihilated, into a thinking rubble.


Copyright © 2018 Noah Warren. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Summer 2018. Used with permission of the author.