Two Dinners -Nick Vagnoni
December 27, 2012, 1:18 pm
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Sitting alone at the bar,

I watch a waiter prepare branzino tableside
with a fork and a spoon—
he flips back the salt crust chassis, removes
tail, dorsal, head,
peels back skin,
puckered under salt and fire,
limp as wet paper, delicate
as my own.
He curls it around his fork
like a sardine can lid
and with a few fast strokes
splits the fish
open into hemispheres,
removes the spine,
excises the bloodline.
Over my shoulder
I see our table.
Would I have eaten any slower that night

had I known you would soon end our engagement?
The salumi with their constellations of fat.
Slivers of fennel, crackling
with sea salt.
Blood orange sorbet
orbiting our table
in a little metal cup.
And your osso buco—
you ate all but the marrow:
This distillate of grapes and nightshade,
fire and roots,
cocooned in long, cavernous rings of bone,
to be mined with a tiny spoon—
a little drip of silver—
or a tongue.
A hurried waiter
The levels of all the glasses

tremble in unison
as a quartino tips
and the valpolicella explodes slowly into the tablecloth.
The red stain, a growing thunderhead,
stops short before the edge of the table,
before the cloth is pulled back,
as if to say,
this was us
all bluster and storm
but no flood.

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