COMMUNION

for Pat Fargnoli, in memoriam

 

We meet at Burdick’s Restaurant—your
favorite—a place I first discovered in a poem
you sent to our workshop. In the poem
the waitress from Cambodia brings you
honey-lemon-ginger tea.

Steam rises with the scent of lemon,
the little mesh pouch nestling
thin coins of ginger sliced minutes ago
to steep in the water and honey.

I find you at a table covered with a white
cloth, elegant in a black suit, gray waves
swept off your face. You smile as I slip
into the chair across from you.
“I always order the chicken salad.”

In your poem you are alone,
inviting the reader to observe:
At the next table, a silent couple. The husband,
unshaven, one leg in a brace, a scar
across his forehead, staring off to nowhere.

How often I’ve sat alone, watching
those around me, wondering. But today,
absorbed in conversation, we might
form a tableau for other solitary viewers.
We’ll never know.

For years we’ve nurtured shared poems
in our all-women’s online poetry group.
This is the first time we’ve met in person.
Yet how familiar your presence feels,
our poems windows opening onto presence.

How long, for instance, has it been
since I, myself, felt joy– the deep-down
explosion of it, the way I used to
just by looking out a window and seeing
sky, for instance, or walking down a street . . .

It’s winter here, as it often is in your poems.
I still see you, fork poised in mid-air,
waiting to take a bite until you’ve finished
speaking. You gaze over my shoulder at
the gray sky framed by mullioned windows.

    

Italicized lines were written by Patricia Fargnoli in poems submitted to the WompoWorkshop online poetry group.

 

 

Ann Hostetler is the author of two poetry collections, Safehold and Empty Room with Light, and editor of an anthology, A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry. She lives in Goshen, Indiana, and is Professor Emerita at Goshen College, where she taught English and creative writing for several decades.

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