In the Event John Ashbery Walks into this All-You-Can-Eat Buffet

by Jared Walls

The macaroni here is crusted by lamplight,

& that sounds wonderful, an all-expenses-

paid getaway for your mouth, the experience

illuminated by all these Grandma Moses

prints on the wall—perhaps they should invest

in track lighting, to give the landscapes

the ambience they deserve, but it's only

a 24-hour-all-you-can-eat buffet,

& it's not like John Ashbery is going

to stumble into this place & give it

the write-up of its history in ARTNews.

I'm probably risking my reputation here—

someone told me you can only make fun

of dead people on the page, so long as they're

not newly dead, because that's tacky,

so maybe instead of Ashbery, Tolstoy walks

into the diner, queues in the buffet line

& offers us the verisimilitude of wilted lettuce,

too-sweet cherry tomatoes & regrettable chicken

fried steak: the lumps in its gravy, the cost

on the soul for eating such a meal

in such a place. As he leaves for the parking lot,

he'll mistake the penumbra of the building

for the diabetic failing of his eyeballs.

Jared Walls is an MFA candidate at Texas State University, where he serves as poetry editor for Front Porch Journal. He lives with his wife Caroline in a Reagan-era duplex in Austin, where he writes about cats, hipsters and Communists on his blog,