Table Setting During the Corralito
Buenos Aires, 2002
I start an apology,
puddle of water on my lap
seeping into denim. He bends
down on one knee in front of me
coolly collects wet bills,
each lard pastry,
spilling from his fingers as he fills them.
I could swear everything was sterling
flatware, table set
so when the cloth was pulled
from beneath it all,
we would hardly notice the culprit’s hands.
My uncle held a stack of notes,
bank account frozen,
life savings halved by the devaluation.
He approached the table where I sat,
With no more of your Yankee dollars behind me,
how much do you think I’m worth now?
of provisional Lecop fanned out
in his hand—I said millions
keeping this cruel joke going.
He stuffed one bill
between his right cheek
before slinging the rest in a billow
toward the dining room table
as if these worthless notes
burned his fingers.
I jerked my body back, pulled a cloth-wrapped
thigh and dragged
everything on the table away with me.
The water cup rolled onto my lap,
libritos, and dinnerware following
the procession of my leg
to the linoleum floor.
I’m sliding the cloth back into place,
as he sets our new table
in the quilombo: two fistfuls
of objects released before me in a mound
for breakfast, and a cup
suffocating upside down
in a puddle of apology,
lips pressed to table.
LUCIAN MATTISON is an Argentinean American poet and author of Peregrine Nation (The Broadkill River Press, 2014) and Reaper’s Milonga, forthcoming from YesYes Books in 2017. His poems appear in The Adroit Journal, The Boiler, Hobart, Inter|rupture, Muzzle, Nashville Review, and elsewhere online and in print. His fiction appears in Fiddleblack, Nano Fiction, and Per Contra. He works at The George Washington University and is an associate editor for Big Lucks. To read more visit lucianmattison.com