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Garden Party Reprise

by Kathleen Winter


after E. M. W. Tillyard


The ladies wore eclipsing hats.
Familiar even to distress,
the epic strain, the brandy.
His garden was the Ne Plus Ultra,

its tale familiar even to distress,
that ignorance is bliss,
the Ne Plus Ultra,
if you like that sort of thing.

Ignorance is bliss
for the complacent visitor
who likes that sort of thing.
But what if you’re obsessed with class?

For the complacent visitor
sometimes becomes anxious about change—
obsessed with class,
begins to greet the waiters with suspicion.

Anxious about change,
the well-heeled garden party guest
greets waiters with suspicion,
wondering How long will the music last?

Well-heeled, the garden party guest
conceives the sharpest question he can ask:
How long will the music last?
A married woman lingers at the fruit plate.

The sharpest question he can ask
hangs for an instant in the air—
the lady lingers at the fruit plate, eyes
the only apple.

Hanging for an instant in the air,
familiar even to distress,
only the apple marries with
the epic strain, the brandy.

Kathleen Winter will be the fall 2015 Dobie Paisano Fellow, selected by the University of Texas at Austin and Texas Institute of Letters. Her poems have appeared in Tin House, The New Republic, FIELD, and Gulf Coast. She lives in Sonoma County, California. (6/2015)


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