The Food Critic
My beat is the restaurant,
the diner, the chop house.
On any day, without calling ahead,
I’m whisked into a plush booth
lit by fresh, white bulbs
gauzed in yellow. My picture,
an old photo probably cut from a book, hangs
in every kitchen in town
next to the garlic and knives.
Two, maybe three, fit waiters
will taxi plates and flood
the crumbling chains of ice in my glass.
for a poet. At least, we were told that
when books went away.
Few of us could believe it
when we were given a paycheck
and an audience. Now, no more rhymes
or pretty books with pretty names.
But, it’s not as bad as it sounds.
There are worse things
than being one of the acknowledged
legislators of taste.
Just think of the poor novelist
who must write movies or obituaries;
there’s little difference, I’m told.
For the masses, I dine
on both the good and the bad. In Reno
I ate a street bird—pigeon,
I think it was—that tasted like tobacco,
with dry, brown rice
and just-picked beans fresh
enough to pop between your teeth.
Once, I sliced a rib-eye
in Omaha, bone-out, so tender
it blinked like a cat.
This is the kingdom
we have inherited. Happiness
is a solemn slice of black tie cake
waiting in every hotel room,
while grief is missing the pyramids
of donut burgers and twinkies
after your funeral. And love,
well, love is still the first law
of the land
because what else is a double-scoop
of bacon ice cream
if not a monument to self-love?
Now, every poet is a love poet,
which should be cause for celebration
because every editorial, column, and review,
is now a love letter, a valentine
like this one
I’ve just typed for you,
Where the unswept walkways
of the streets convene and jut
into a soiled T tattooed on the
face of the horn-brown waters
a boat with the bones of a
house rocks. Where a dozen
odd rows of riveted steel
benches once held whale
watchers like penitents, where
a generation earlier deckhands
briskly scrubbed the sop of
viscera, forty may comfortably
dine. Two hundred and fifty
five green-black bottles of
globetrotting grapes stacked
like the dead lie in repose off
the kitchen. Corralled by
windows, from any table
the city rises coal-grey and rotten
in the west like broken fingers
on an untended hand.
Eastward, the pitiless ocean
laps the cold hull out of which
a dumbwaiter ascends with
disks of fried crab in
horseradish puddles. Glazed
Berlin venison is the special,
roasted with authentic wall-
climbing wild carrots. Double-
barreled cherry blintzes mark
the end of the meal and the
violet bruise of a late sky.
"The Food Critic" by Tomás Q. Morín is reprinted with the permission of the author and the American Poetry Review, where it appears in Volume 42 No. 6. Tomás Q. Morín is the winner of the 2012 APR/Honickman First Book Prize for his collection A Larger Country. He is co-editor with Mari L'Esperance of the anthology Coming Close: 40 Essays on Philip Levine. His poems have appeared in New England Review, Narrative, Boulevard, Slate,Threepenny Review, Best New Poets, and elsewhere. You can find out more about him at his website here.