The Dinner Table

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[Written by Rose Inglis (she/her)]

[Photo by Regular Man on Unsplash]

Not many things are constant

not many things defined

life shifts and bends against our will 

changing all the time

Few things remain

yet some will always stay

found in every household

if not the same in every way

The dinner table

is one such thing

that is with us all our lives

a ritual necessity 

though it changes all the time

At birth, you just need comfort

a place to lay and eat

it doesn’t matter where you are

as long as you’re getting a feed

A few months on, the setting changes

a high table all your own

new foods are placed before you

mum praising how you’ve grown

Spoon fed with airplane sounds 

by the hands of nervous parents

food mashed and thrown 

and juice spilled upon the floor

dinner rules need not be obeyed

until at least the age of four

The next stage is one of privilege

A sign of grace and age

where plastic becomes glass and steel

and you’re told you must behave 

Food must be cut not mashed

the sound of airplanes now evening news 

now you know what foods you like

and which ones you will refuse 

New tables come and go

one for all occasions

cakes and hats for birthdays

at the kid’s club on vacation 

Now the basic rules are known

the real table is seldom used 

for we know now how to behave

the cutlery is never misused 

Then high school starts 

and there’s no time for such traditions  

The table is a bus seat

dinner eaten before drinking sessions 

Then off to uni, where the table is sticky

the shelves are bare and the chair legs bent

somehow all the knives are missing   

don’t even ask about the scent

Unlike the table from years ago

this one has no rules

aside from ones in drinking games 

ones that make us into fools 

Just like in the highchair 

cups will fly and fall

except this time it’s not juice that’s wasted

it’s Tennents from the flat down the hall 

Now I don’t know what tables are left

what settings are yet to come

is it on to formal adulthood

or can I stick to glens and rum? 

Am I meant to buy a table?

a set of fancy chairs?

I don’t have any crystal cups,

and actually, I don’t really care

I’ve come to like mismatched stuff that sits in uni cupboards

the novelty bowls, hand painted mugs, that one nice glass from mother 

So whatever dinner tables are yet to come

whatever form they take

I’ll let them happen on their own

after all, it’s just a place to set your plate


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