I have a week to get the apartment ready for my dinner guest next Saturday night. He is a published poet with whom I last shared a meal two or three years back. We were at a restaurant not far from the college where he had read his work the evening before. Articulate, probing in his inquiry, steady in his gaze, he sat across the lunch table from me for two hours that day.
Fourteen years younger than I, he already had a first volume of poetry to his name as well as a handful of chapbooks. Our acquaintance had begun online, erupted in occasional phone calls, and found holiday expression in exchanges of greeting cards over the years. We both found in the other the kind of good company characterized by attention to language and alertness to religious and ethical questions.
His smile is an easy one in the numerous photographs that have been taken of him and posted on websites featuring Latino authors. He speaks softly in public; in private, he seems always to have ready two or more questions to follow the one he has just posed.
I will take care what books I have most easily visible in the living room next Saturday. I expect that he will squat next to the bookcases flanking the fireplace and eventually pull something off the shelf and turn to me and ask, “Did you like this?” I likely will not know until I answer whether he himself has read the work in question.
He will come and he will go. He will return home and take up any of a number of projects he has underway. He will craft his words for the next editor’s review.
I, on the other hand, will wait for the visit to settle. Maybe sit down again on a Saturday afternoon like this one. Ask myself what I have to say and how I want to say it. Ask myself and no one else.