A once-and-again mother picks at her teeth
at the Sunday dinner table, laughing at how
her church must be the only church
where there was no need for a gun.
She takes the fat off the roast, drags a piece
through carrots, cole slaw, across her plate.
“We’re Christian people,” she said, “All
of us good. We don’t need no guns. Yet.”
She has her a J.R. pistol: Colt, black, white-
handled, an uncle’s gift, years ago
in a bedside table drawer for safekeeping
under a pair of folded gloves, loaded.
(Nobody wears gloves anymore).
Instead: “Every seat’s a backseat these days,”
she changes the subject. (It’s her hobby)
She changes subjects (she keeps the change).
She dips a chintzy sleeve in the pear salad
on her way to a fourth helping of the potatoes.
(She pretends not to notice the dirty sleeve
so she doesn’t have to notice the pear salad).
An only son sits across from her,
(There are six chairs that go with this table),
his plate cleaned beneath him. All by himself,
he skillfully develops an afternoon headache
watching her watching her dirty her sleeve.
(It matters to her that the gun is mostly black.
She’s mentioned it two times now and he’s—
“I’m gonna wear those gloves I don’t care where!”
She never uses her napkin. She should.
“I’ll wear them to Piggly Wiggly for bananas!”—
Small bits of corn have breaded her blouse.
It’s a lovely Sunday to be embarrassed), he nods,
to himself. She nods for a different reason.
He re-positions himself on the piano bench.
(He’s never had a chair at this table)
by the sliding glass door – Breaking
news— the TV is on—Mississippi has the worst
economy in the nation—the TV stays on—
“Cheap bananas,” she says, “Even the new ones.”
There’s nothing new in Mississippi anymore.
(There’s nothing in Mississippi anymore).
Mississippi’s not even in Mississippi anymore.
This is it – the bang. Come out, come out.
Hide and Seek, not Red Rover, Red Rover.
He considers having more roast beef.
The end of the world, if it’s coming, come
put your deer in the road already, come
cut out Piggly Wiggly bag magnolias,
press those steeple-fingers up against
the knotted threads of catfish wool;
throw rice at the cows lowing their famous
bathrobe song in that Bethlehem key.
“Aunt Lola died. Did I tell you.” (No,
forget the roast beef. Maybe pear salad).
A mockingbird then flies headfirst in
to the sliding glass doors. She had
a finger in her mouth; she bit it, but
she didn’t turn. She won’t look out at
the pecan trees, left after Katrina, still
stubbed, like dotted, crooked letters,
waiting for one last word. Some say
it’ll be a hand-me-down tablecloth;
or, the tragedy of a hobnail milk glass
vase broken into favors. Or, smaller like
the deep freeze or the goddamn world.
The end: The Big Bang’s Ready or Not.
No more hiding places left in the napkins.
Nothing familiar is left on the forks.
“The chandelier would be pretty
if it weren’t so dusty. I don’t know
how on earth to go about cleaning
a chandelier. And one that old.”
She says this easy. How she moves
from the gun to gloves to bananas
from Aunt Lola to the old chandelier,
happens quickly, happens every Sunday,
reliable as a tap water boil notice.
She’s a boil notice for tap water
but you’re not sure whose faucet. She
could be someone else’s faucet,
next door or the next door. Or the next.
He looks up. The table is empty now.
He carries the bench and puts it back
in front of the upright and the living
room’s back the same; he has the same
thought, back, behind his headache:
The fact of a bench is that it isn’t a chair.
The fact is, it does not need a table.