Over the summer, my family and I got to have dinner with a friend from way back, someone we hadn't seen in years. He and his wife (whom we hadn't met) joined us at an Indian restaurant one evening during our travels. Afterward I wrote this poem.
Dinner with a Friend, July 2014
You talk at dinner about what you’ve been reading,
A book on the geology of Tennessee.
You tell us about the four layers of rock in the earth
And how you can see millions of years of history
And find fossils of ocean creatures along the freeway.
You talk about the New Madrid Fault
And how a giant earthquake there like the ones in 1811 and 1812
Would destroy Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis…
In 1811 the shaking rang church bells in Montreal.
Oh, and, you say, a book about the problem of evil.
And I smile and say I remember
That’s what you were reading the last time we talked about books
Years ago when we were all in our twenties
And most of our lives hadn’t happened yet,
All those earthquakes real and figurative.
I don’t know about you, but back then I had a strange idea
That the world would pretty much stay the way it was,
That the problem of evil was mostly an intellectual one
To be discussed over our kitchen table or yours
Rather than a battleground of pain and blood,
And that the forests we hiked through and the roads we cycled
Were there to stay, solid under our feet.
These days it’s easier for me to imagine everything changing,
Buildings falling, landmarks gone, bodies in the streets,
Ocean creatures swimming down highways in a landlocked state.
I know now that someday soon we’ll all be gone.
That thought does make me shudder a little,
But it also focuses my attention on the delicious naan I’m eating right now
And how good it is to see you again.
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