Poetry: I Am Pretending There Was No Restaurant by Chrys Tobey

This poem performs its conceit well. A familiar anxiety hugs the imagery—that all too familiar unease of love lost & discarded. Pay attention to the way the conceit returns, returns again, & rides the imagery like an unhappy passenger. See how Chrys allows the performance to dictate itself in the free verse form. So much of what we poets do: allow language the space to live.


I Am Pretending There Was No Restaurant

as though the ocean swept it away like a sand dune.
If I pretend there was no restaurant then I never
saw your glossy eyes, where the old man
who’d sit at the counter each day
said I can tell he’s a pervert. Just look at his eyes.
But if there was no restaurant then there was no old man
and if I pretend there was no restaurant—two streets away
from your apartment—then you never walked in
one evening, before your baseball game,
sat at the counter and asked What’s good here?
If I pretend there was no restaurant,
then you never watched me,
the way one mutes their television,
as I told you tortilla soup was good.
You never asked me to refill your ice tea,
never tipped the amount of the check.
No, if I pretend there was no restaurant,
as though somehow a hole just sucked it right up,
then you never came in every Saturday for months
asking So when are we going to go out?
You never waited, like a dog waiting for his bone,
as I paused, pulled you closer,
the way I’d tug the thin string of a kite,
and said Maybe next time.
If I pretend there was no restaurant,
then I never said yes and each yes
that followed unravels like the yarn of an old quilt
and you are just a piece of dust
I rubbed out of my eye
a long time ago.


(This poem was first published in Ploughshares, Spring 2015.)



Chrys Tobey

Chrys Tobey was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. Her poetry has been published in many literary journals, including Smartish Pacethe minnesota review, and Rattle. In 2008, her chapbook, Wash Away: Marie Antoinette Visits My Mind, was published by Finishing Line Press. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon.

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