—in the dining hall, Ansonia Hotel, 1917 — Claire Brown

Cutlery clinked the side of a glass
and curious eyes darted,
searching for the source of the sound.
Within the clamor surrounding her,
she identified the shrieks of laughter
as medals she was never meant to receive.
There was a moment of distraction
as the desserts passed by,
but the moment decayed and died in the din.
Dearest, please do sit up straight.
The courters like a woman with courtesy.
The men like a girl with class.
She cared not about class or courters,
yet those echoes reminded her,
in the voice of her mother,
of things she ought to do for this gentleman caller.

He was not handsome,
the man sat across from her,
for his hair was wiry and his eyes were hollow.
Hand thin but wallet fat,
he was ugly and not well clad,
looking singularly unrefined,
rudimentary in her haze of fine wine.
“Miss,” he began, boring her with properness,
“I have asked for your hand.
Your father said yes.”
“Is that so?” she said in-between sips.
He shook his head yes.
And that’s when her hand, balled in a fist,
came down on the table beside his dish.
“You want my hand? Well, sir, here it is—”
and she, with a knife, cut it off at the wrist.