After lunch
By Karen Mandell

I rear up from my seat, fingertips pressing into the table.
I’m hungry, I say, who’s going to lunch.
Three of us walk down the stairs, the meeting over, already forgotten.
Why am I always so hungry, I ask them, this has been going on for days.
The bears have stopped hibernating, the sociologist says.

Maybe that’s why I bought maple syrup, just the other week.
Turns out I’m in step with nature, knowing in my mammal bones
that now, now liquid seeps through tree veins
and animals bestir themselves, hunger and cold rains disturbing their sleep.

In the dining room I heap damp leaves on my plate and tuna fish
and spoon on sunflower seeds, chopped eggs, olive oil, vinegar.
At the steam table I take squash and greens and boiled carrots.
I need another plate for rice pudding, and canned peaches with granola.
In my jacket pockets I stow a banana and an apple, for later.

I’ve lost track of my friends, but it’s better this way.
I’ve got work to do, spooning and forking, chewing and swallowing.
With each bite, the light grows dimmer behind my eyes.
By the time I’m done, my thoughts have melted and drained down my throat.

When I stand up, I’m all girth, and the fruits in my pockets round out my hips.
I lumber off, across campus, under an overcast sky, to my next class.
Sparks flicker across my mind and go out.
I open the classroom door, blink weak eyes at bars of florescent lighting,
and face my students.


I recently completed a novel, Repairs and Alterations, about an elderly tailor and his revelations to his family about what really happened to him during World War II. Currently, I teach writing at Mount Ida College in Newton, Massachusetts, after living in Minnesota for eight years. Here's a bit of culture shock: In Minnesota when the traffic lights are on the blink, cars politely take turns going, as if there's an invisible cop directing traffic. In Boston, cars stream by in one direction until the cars in the other direction start honking and shoving their way through. You've got to admire both the orderliness and the spirit. But it's a little scarier here.


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