setting the table

Kara Dorris
Content Warnings
"The wolves are snarling today, so I set the table slowly."
Dec 28, 2020 9:51 PM

The wolves are snarling today, so I set the table slowly.

He says, you’re so beautiful, but one wolf

won’t let me believe, & I won’t let the other close enough

to lick the good china. You’ve heard this myth.

One dark, one light, live inside. Feed one

& it survives. When will we learn

what we starve always becomes claw

& teeth & snarl? When we see our own ribs, we begin

to mash & gnaw. It is easier to believe,

to break (& break into) what is seen.

So, I close my eyes & set the table. He says,

you’re so beautiful today, but one wolf is sacrificing

the other on the altar of our expectations.

Here is a severed paw, red against turquoise fiesta ware.

Here is an eyetooth, ivory parsley. Here, one blue eye, one

brown. A carafe to wash it down. When will

we remember the myth says if we feed both wolves right—

generosity & selfishness, humility & pride—

we all win? So, today, I set the table slowly,

soothe hands over smooth wood grain, one fork

for each plate. Leave the chairs pulled back, forgiving.

I know those high school girls called my arms & legs retarded

because, like me, they were afraid of their own bodies.

He says, you’re so beautiful. Fancy dress & made-up

I might believe, but not make-up free. One wolf says

he only wants sex. One says attraction is beyond bone deep.

Starve one, or guide both—you get to choose.

They say beauty is symmetry. I set the table slowly today,

the wolves are snarling.

Kara Dorris is the author of Have Ruin, Will Travel (Finishing Line Press, 2019). She has also published four chapbooks: Elective Affinities (dancing girl press, 2011), Night Ride Home (Finishing Line Press, 2012), Sonnets from Vada’s Beauty Parlor & Chainsaw Repair (dancing girl press, 2018), and Untitled Film Still Museum (CW Books, 2019). Her poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Gold Wake Live, I-70 Review, Southword, Rising Phoenix, Harpur Palate, Cutbank, Hayden Ferry Review, Tinderbox, Puerto del Sol, The Tulane Review, and Crazyhorse, among others literary journals, as well as the anthology Beauty is a Verb (Cinco Puntos Press, 2011). Her prose has appeared in Wordgathering, Breath and Shadow, Waxwing, and the anthology The Right Way to be Crippled and Naked (Cinco Puntos Press, 2016). She earned a MFA in creative writing from New Mexico State University and a PhD in literature and poetry at the University of North Texas. Currently, she is a visiting assistant professor of English at Illinois College. For more information, please visit