Over Dinner Tables

by Daniel Robbins

is where I have studied
her secret language,
observing her behavior
like a male Jane Goodall
in a jungle of lips and thighs.

I have learned
what it really means when
she reaches across the table
for my hand, when she
draws invisible pictures
with her finger, or when
she looks away while
drinking water.

Currently, all research
is concentrated on her late-night
diner rituals: building a shrine
out of coffee-creamers or
spinning the ash tray in circles,
stirring coffee for three
unbroken minutes.
And her car keys – how
so much depends
if she puts them in her pocket.

And it can mean many things
when she says I’m not hungry
or this egg isn’t cooked; but
tonight I have discovered
it can only mean one thing
when she looks at the bill
and reaches into
what is called a purse,
says I’m paying for my own.
This means something
not expressible in the tongue of men
but instead maybe by the table
we leave behind: coffee stains
marking time like the rings of trees,
an ash tray heaped like Pompeii,
one clean knife and a five dollar bill,
an unfinished crossword,
done in ink, forever waiting
on those final answers to come
like the voice of God: Rosebud,
a six-letter word
for First apple-picker.

Daniel Robbins is a graduate student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he served as editor for the Kaleidoscope and technical writer for the IT department.  Recently, he has appeared in The Allegheny Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, and Aura Literary Arts Review.  He has won several awards including the Barkesdale-Maynard Poetry Award and a Hackney Literary Award for Poetry, and is currently working on a book about comic-book literature entitled In Defense of Men in Tights.

Daniel Robbins was nominated for Poets Under 30 by Bob Collins.