They Who Will Sit at the Table (Ode to the Oxfam Eight)


Eight places are set,
The cloth napkins folded, chairs dusted and polished
And silverware placed; salad fork, regular fork, desert fork
Knife, steak knife, and spoon all laid waiting
For the eight pairs of golden hands to use them
To move around their food before eating.

Eight chairs ready, their wood dusted and polished
And spaced so that each diner can enjoy his meal
And pleasant conversation.

Eight menus waiting, the waiters and the cooks too
Ready to jump into service and cater to they who will sit
At the table and enjoy their meals, whether they be simple
Or sophisticated.

I stand and wait for them, not as a member of the staff
Or as someone seeking a selfie or pieces of golden advice
So that I may someday have a place set for me.
But I instead want to know, to observe these eight
Like a tourist on photographic safari watching savage beasts.

Who are they who sit at the table and earn more in each breath’s time
Than most make in one life? Whose every decision can create heaven
Or hell for the legions trailing in their wakes? Whose fingers poke into
Countless lives as fortunes are made or lost, dreams made manifest
Or into nightmares?

Are they heroes, villains,or both? Are they the wealth they’ve created or captured?
Or are they more (or less) than that? I do not know these things as I stand
And wait, becoming invisible in my educational and economic insignificance,
Simultaneously feeling enamored and intimidated; like a boy upon becoming a man
And being among other men but still wondering what to expect.

They who will sit at this table must have blood in their veins, their bodies of flesh and sinew as you and I both have. They must rest when weary and have love in their hearts. They know passion, pride, and pain in good measure, I’m sure, and laugh when amused. I’m certain they must have these attributes or they would surely be just beasts dressed in finery.

Might I sit at that table? Might we all sit at that table?
Might we, for at least a moment? Say for a salad? Or, dessert?
It seats so few and there are so many of us standing, limping, or crawling.
Some push forward to look or a chance to steal a seat as if playing musical chairs.

I tell myself that I am content with my love, my family, my spirit (et cetera).
I hear my endless list, a chant that channels all my desire and ambition.
Still, they who sit at the table inspire those of us standing to know that someday we May eat at our own table, modest as it may be, unless they prohibit that.
Then, will we walk away and neglect their table or become savage beasts and tear it All apart?

© 2017 by John David Higham: All Rights Reserved
Photo: El Tovar Dining Room (Grand Canyon Village, 1/2/17)

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