Hermit Age

Photograph: ‘Cafe in Sofia’ © JStadnicki

During supper at our usual tavern 

it reeks of furniture polish. At six o’clock 

waiters dust the old piano then serve

wine out of bleached carafes. 

Two past seven. Room temperature 

eighteen Celsius. Twenty-three guests 

order the same main course. 

Those seated by the piano need 

face coverings. They ask for salt 

and spare cutlery. Twenty past seven.

The kitchen door opens 

four times in twelve minutes. 

There is a power cut when guest B 

finishes the lamb chops.

The waiters bring out fire-safe candles. 

Guests A and C reach for matches. 

No-one speaks. 

© Maria Stadnicka June 2021

Excerpt from the sequence Hermit Age.