How funny to reach the age of dining
alone in a curried restaurant,
with the background tabla and shimmering sitar drone.
Funny to dine alone, as my father dined
in solitude through his years
before my birth into his joy and company.
Thirty years on, the familiar waiter turns out
to be the son of the waiter who served me monthly.
I touch the place setting, the Indian cloth, my own history.
My best friend and I drank here
until we were blind with youth.
I had my first date here. I got engaged here.
All the exotic meals that were cleared of these dishes—
even the golden brass plates I used to steal
under my coat, to decorate our first apartment.
I touch this table to bring back every meal and year, bring
back my best friend, now dead and not gone, bring
back my wife before her years of anger.

Late hour. Samosa and poori bread. The shiny music softens.
Let me bring my children to dine with me at Mitali,
the North Indian word for friendship. The waiter
appears and disappears. Where is my old waiter
and the decades? How did the beautiful hostess go
into her own life, her own meals
apart from her work, the green dollars
wedged under the last brass plate?

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 35 Number 9, on page 28
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