At a Restaurant

David Ferry
| poetry


I always keep averting my eyes from who

I am. I don’t know whether this is true

Of everyone I know sitting beside me

At dinner at a restaurant or at

A family gathering, although I wonder

What it means that the word "gathering" means,

Or what it means to each of us sitting here,

Or who it is who's sitting here beside me.

I don't know who you are or who I am.


Friendship ought to be, and so it is,

A ritual at dinner for doing the work

Of defining who we are, carefully so

We negotiate the terms with mutual

Respect, and the word "respect" means trying

To figure it out in what we say at dinner,

Acknowledging our mutual confusion.

We say "good night." It's a wonderful thing to say.

It assents to the fact that we go to sleep alone.

David Ferry‘s translation of Virgil’s Aeneid is out this year from University of Chicago Press. His other translations include The Odes of Horace, the Eclogues and Georgics of Virgil, and the Epic of Gilgamesh. He received the Ruth Lilly Prize for Lifetime Achievement in 2011, and the National Book Award for Poetry in 2012 for his collection Bewilderment.

In Which We Speak
David Ferry Reading Monday, Nov 6, 7 p.m. Suffolk Poetry Center