1. “What breaks me,
Young friend,
Is tasteless desire,
Dead iambics,
Boring dinners.”
Archilochos, trans. Guy Davenport

And the worst of all these to befall us:
boring dinners.
First course boring, second course boring,
third course worse,
that story about the cousin’s trip to France
and his rediscovery of cheese.
That could be fascinating
given a passion for cheese,
or at least respect for the goat,
whose life surely must be less predictable
than that of the woman opposite me
if she only knew how to avoid mentioning her nephew—
the one still trying to discover how long the War of 1812 went on.
Meanwhile, the horrible extremes of rationality and wholesome behavior
are getting worse
until we hallucinate ourselves from the table
to fly over the bottle of wine
and dangle our feet from the copper wall fixture.
The ancient Greeks were done in by boring dinners.
Who are we to pretend to be made of less flimsy stuff?
A saint would slap that hostess across the mouth.
Someone on my right says,
Next time, your house.

2. “What breaks me,
Young friend,
Is tasteless desire,
Dead iambics,
Boring dinners.”
Archilochos, trans. Guy Davenport

Unsatisfied guest,
text messaging under the table. When you finish,
please do not stare at the wallpaper
my visiting nephew believed hid a weasel
that must be found with a fork.
My running around serving you, frazzled as that weasel,
my attempts to enlarge small talk,
you who make talk so small
it’s bullied by a grain of salt….
What should I do
with your ingratitude?
I have been trying to keep myself from shrieking
by imagining you naked.
I cannot imagine you naked.
That is your fault.
These pears once bobbed at the end of a branch,
tethering in their flesh
wood smoke and sunlight.
What evil did these pears do to you?
So let me show you the door.
I think the world of this door.
Some of the hands that turned that knob
could make an adventure
out of rotten twine and a discarded shoe.
But who am I, at this moment,
to recall your disdain,
to feed cheese to the greedy mouse
of your contempt?
Next time, your house.

Lee Upton is the author of eleven books, including the new novella The
Guide to the Flying Island. She has written five books of poetry, most recently
Undid in the Land of Undone, and four books of literary criticism. She is
the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, the National Poetry Series Award, and
awards from the Poetry Society of America. Her poetry and short stories
appear widely. She is a professor of English and the writer-in-residence at
Lafayette College.  About “Boring Dinners”: Guy Davenport’s translation of Archilochos
is nothing short of an incitement. As soon as I read the words “boring dinners” I
wanted to write a poem. Who hasn’t been the victim of boring dinners—or the perpetrator? In
part two of my poem the hostess takes her revenge on her merciless guest, which
seems only fair.

Read our interview with Lee here.