The Dinner

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Angels have dined with men, and when they do,
All that they touch and taste takes blessing too.
The world that lies within a night and day,
Ended with evening, all things pass away,
And, a new heaven and a new earth begun,
We meet as two, and touch and smile as one.
Then on my sleeve you lay your brilliant hand
And lead me to the lighted table land.
All things expect you: walls and ceiling swim
In mellower light; the chairs stand straight and trim;
The tables dressed with snow behold you come;
The mouth of every crystal glass is dumb;
The knives and forks in silver order shine
And grace descends upon the food and wine.

Delicate, young and cradled in delight,
You take your seat and bare your teeth to bite—
What is my courage then to suffer this
Miracle of your metamorphosis!
For in that instant I behold the jaws
Of the most terrible of carnivores
Tear at its prey; the ravening human packs
Pull down their terrified victim in its tracks;
The wit, the charm, the grace, the pride of life
Adore the bloody edges of a knife!
The nakedness I had my arms about
Was gorged with death—I see the cayman’s snout
Snap the deer’s nostrils as they touch the flood;
The tiger’s hairy muzzle sweet with blood;
The condor, flapping from the rocky peak,
Light on the carrion, plunge his grisly beak
Into the rotting porridge; through the dark
Slides the lithe, cold torpedo of the shark.
The air, the jungle, the salt, cannibal sea
Hold no more ruthless beast of prey than she.
For her the ox falls snoring in his blood;
The lamb is butchered for her daily food;
Her exquisite mouth, that smiles and tastes the wine,
Has killed by proxy a whole herd of swine—

Her exquisite mouth! As men, when at the worst,
Envy past ills, a vision succeeds the first
For which how gladly would I take again
That vision of the bloody mouths of men!
Now from the ancient past are conjured crude
Terrors of the black cave and the blind wood:
There sits the giant at his monstrous board,
The giantess, massive as her shaggy lord,
Squats at the spit and bastes the sizzling meat,
Dresses the trencher, serves and takes her seat,
And, leaning on the plank her full, warm breasts,
Looks in his face and smiles. He takes and tests
His six-foot knife—the little ribs spring wide;
He cuts the liver steaming from its side.
Talking in deep, soft, grumbling undertones
They gnaw and crack and such the marrowy bones.
The titbits and choice meats they pluck and press
Each on the other, with grave tenderness,
And touch and laugh; their strange, fierce features move
With the delight and confidence of love.
I watch their loves, I see their human feast
With the doomed comprehension of the beast;
I feel the sweat creep through my bristling hair;
Hollow with rage and fear, I crouch and stare,
And hear their great jaws strip and crush and chew,
And know the flesh they rend and tear is you.

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