Lucian Mattison

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,

knives, napkins,

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,

wryly asked,


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

and gums,

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,

warm butter,

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