John the Baptist
At the wedding I leave a crowd to ask
for one chair from his table. He consents
before I know the space I meant to take
is taken. Stay he says, so I relent,
tell him my name. We shake hands across
a mirror centerpiece like two enjoined
to settle debt. I guess his side is mine.
I’ve never met the two you celebrate
he says. The two arrive. We stand until
they pose beneath an arbor, laugh, ascend
a rise concealed in skirt and plastic vine.
My work is watching strangers wed—he says
this pointing to the platform holding newly
bound, their next of kin—I set the table
for the feast. I nod, unfold a hill of
tablecloth, note the tattered quality
it treats. Some regardless of the price
will often stay behind to help tear down
than follow happy couples out. I meet
his eyes. You’ll catch me bring my ladder in
before the rice hits ground, glimpse a little
fall while climbing up to loosen crowns.
He nods at the gazebo. The gesture
makes it visible. When a server breaks
the spell, my first chance to go, he says No,
I should get back. I only meant to see
them stand. We rise, shake hands again. One side
paid. Later when the farewell aisle’s set
to let the married pass in that rosy
imitation of the narrow way, no
rice in hand, I look back to see if he
had lied, to know if I can put him there
the way he made his pristine work appear
we look to hide, ignore like wreaths above
a frame. My father’s business was the same.
Mario Chard reads “John the Baptist”
Mario Chard is the author of Land of Fire (Tupelo Press, 2018), winner of the Dorset Prize, a Notable Debut by Poets & Writers Magazine, and the Georgia Author of the Year Award in Poetry. His work has appeared widely in journals and magazines, including The Nation, The New Yorker, Poetry, among others, and his honors include the “Discovery” Poetry Prize and fellowships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the Civitella Ranieri Foundation. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University and an inaugural fellow for the U.S. Ledbury Poetry Critics, he lives in Atlanta, Georgia.