Most of the walls are black with the juice
of berries imported for just that purpose.
On those not daubed with the dark liquid
hang candid photos of your distant relatives
committing petty and archaic crimes.
The waiters are dressed for a funeral
and the concierge questions your levity
in the face of such grief. You are handed
a wine-list bound with the hair of every
beautiful woman who has ever dined there.
On entering, the lights are turned so high
you can feel the heat falling from them.
Within minutes the smell of sweating cheese
and humid fish has filled the dining area.
The windows and doors are sealed for effect.
In place of menus are books of ingredients
subdivided into three independent segments,
such as are used by children to construct
chimeras. Someone has substituted one panel
of the main courses with one from the desserts.
The entire restaurant, including kitchen,
has been moved into the toilets while
‘renovations’ take place. On entering,
all parties are segregated by sex.
You may help yourself to the tap-water.
A week before dining you must submit portraits
and brief summaries of friends with whom
you have lost touch. When you arrive the cooks
are wearing masks depicting your friends’ faces
and mimic their mannerisms with absurd exaggeration.
Sensitive microphones have been fixed
under some of the tables and the sounds
are relayed instantly to speakers set at a volume
just high enough to be heard. Today the first hints
of feedback are creeping into the layered chatter.
Ben Parker’s debut pamphlet, The Escape Artists, is published by tall-lighthouse and was shortlisted for the 2013 Michael Marks Award.
Ben’s work is featured in Elbow Room Volume Four