Timothy Pilgrim

Etiquette lesson
    (found in White House Cookbook, 1887 — mostly)

Delicacy at the table stamps a man. One must not pull
one’s chair too close. One must not lean along the table,
nor rest one’s arms upon it. Nor should one touch
any of the dishes. One unfolds the napkin and lays it
across the lap so it will not slide off — a gentleman

places it on his right knee and, as he does so, never
grasps thighs or buttocks of ladies seated nearby.
One always holds knife and fork properly, and one
never boasts of exploits with the fairer sex. Especially,
one does not speak in a lustful way about one’s daughter.

One eats without any sound from the lips and drinks quietly,
keeping lips together while masticating food — opening
the mouth causes smacking, which brings forth disgust.
One never takes butter with one’s own knife, and one avoids
vulgarities during the meal even if one tends toward them

in conduct away from the table. One must also restrain
one’s ego to give the appearance of polite listening.
Corn may be eaten from the cob if held with a single hand.
One may pick up a bone, but only one hand is allowed
to touch it. Certainly, the free hand never fondles breasts

of ladies seated nearby. One must not drink with a spoon
in a cup, nor should one ever quite drain a cup or glass.
When one drinks, one should elevate the glass as if one
were poised to invert it on one’s nose. In conversation,
one never shows hatred for those of different skin color

or language, as they may be serving and, though silent,
are capable of hearing and thinking. Bread should never
be broken into soup or gravy. A knife should not be used
to carry food to the mouth, a spoon, never turned over
in the mouth, even if large enough to permit it. One never

blows anything to cool it — to do so is not only inelegant
and vulgar intrinsically, but is also offensive to in that it
implies haste, which, whether from greediness or desire
to promote oneself, is, thus, equally objectionable. Pastry
should be broken and eaten with a fork, never cut

with a knife. At meal's end, knife and fork should be laid
side by side across the middle of the plate, never crossed.
When rising from one’s chair, one does not push it in.
When leaving the room, one must not strut, be pompous,
nor look adoringly at oneself in any nearby mirror.

Panic knot

False belief — only the chosen
don't feel weak, won't scream,

stifle urge to flee, excrete.
Woven ball of fear inside,

no good to cry, fret, lose sleep.
Gallows ritual, also useless guide —

adjust hood, pull noose tight,
step aside, wave goodbye. Go

in style — close eyes, yawn a curse,
fall asleep before the jerk.

Timothy Pilgrim is a U.S. Pacific Northwest poet with several hundred acceptances from journals like Seattle Review, Windsor Review, Hobart, Toasted Cheese, Otoliths and Third Wednesday. He is author of Mapping Water (2016). His work is at www.timothypilgrim.org.
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