The Ancient Modern
The Terror of the Day’s Routine / Joshua Alan Sturgill
Sometimes I watch television
or take out the garbage, wash the dishes
or make a meal, and I see suddenly
how beautiful these things are
in their simplicity and elegance.
They are ways of participation.
Setting a table is god-like, and I wonder
why we neglect it, or rush through it
without considering how each step
is an act of creation. The moon
and the stars echo our placement
of the forks and spoons. The Heavens
are a table, appointed, arrayed.
I sense (when I’m sufficiently aware)
that when I attentively set a table,
I’m working out my salvation: aren’t cups,
cloths, meals and the gathering
up of leftovers all elements
I take the old dishes away; temporarily
set aside the salt and pepper; remove
the placemats, the centerpiece. For a moment
the table is bare.
I dampen a fresh cloth to wipe it clean.
The surface of the table shines in morning light,
formless and empty. I choose a tablecloth
to fit the day’s feast, or my intuition,
or my family’s need. The tablecloth
floats down and settles slowly into place.
I adjust it to even the edges. Then,
I return the centerpiece—perhaps, today,
a vase of fresh-cut lilies.
Placemats, dishes, napkins in their rings
glasses and silverware, maybe bowls, maybe mugs
all find their place. All are circles encircling,
an infinite intricacy:
heaven-like in its terror of delight,
child-like in its ecstatic repetition.