Rhina P. Espaillat
- As if he has decided on a nap
- but feels too pressed for time to find his bed
- or even shift the napkin from his lap,
- the man across the table drops his head
- mid-anecdote, just managing to clear
- a basket of warm rolls and butter stacked
- like little golden dice beside his ear.
- The lady seems embarrassed to attract
- such swift attention from the formal stranger
- who leaves his dinner, bends as if to wake
- the sleeper, seeks a pulse. Others arrange her
- coat about her, gather round to take
- the plates, the quiet form, her name, her hand.
- Now slowly she begins to understand.
Rhina P. Espaillat was born in the Dominican Republic in 1932 and is the author of numerous collections of poetry in both English and Spanish. She is the recipient of many awards, including the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Richard Wilbur Award. She is one of the masterful practitioners of traditional form in contemporary American poetry, as this sonnet demonstrates. “Reservation” is from Where Horizons Go, published by New Odyssey Press, and is reprinted with permission.