by William Carlos Williams
[from Sour Grapes (1921)]
The hostess, in pink satin and blond hair–dressed high–shone beautifully in her white slippers against the great silent bald head of her little-eyed husband!
Raising a glass of yellow Rhine wine in the narrow space just beyond the light-varnished woodwork and the decorative column between dining-room and hall, she smiled the smile of water tumbling from one ledge to another.
We began with a herring salad: delicately flavoured saltiness in scallops of lettuce-leaves.
The little owl-eyed and thick-set lady with masses of grey hair has smooth pink cheeks without a wrinkle. She cannot be the daughter of the little red-faced fellow dancing about inviting lion-headed Wolff the druggist to play the piano! But she is. Wolff is a terrinc smoker: if the telephone goes off at night–so his curled-haired wife whispers–he rises from bed but cannot answer till he has lighted a cigarette.
Sherry wine in little conical glasses, dull brownish yellow, and tomatoes stuffed with finely cut chicken and mayonnaise!
The tall Irishman in a Prince Albert and the usual striped trousers is going to sing for us. (The piano
is in a little alcove with dark curtains.) The hostess’s sister–ten years younger than she–in black net and velvet, has hair like some filmy haystack, cloudy about the eyes. She will play for her husband.
My wife is young, yes she is young and pretty when she cares to be–when she is interested in a discussion: it is the little dancing mayor’s wife telling her of the Day Nursery in East Rutherford, ‘cross the track, divided from us by the railroad–and disputes as to precedence. It is in this town the saloon flourishes, the saloon of my friend on the right whose wife has twice offended with chance words. Her English is atrocious! It is in this town that the saloon is situated, close to the railroad track, close as may be, this side being dry, dry, dry: two people listening on opposite sides of a wall!–The Day Nursery had sixty-five babies the week before last, so my wife’s eyes shine and her cheeks are pink and I cannot see a blemish.
Ice-cream in the shape of flowers and domestic objects: a pipe for me since I do not smoke, a doll for you.
The figure of some great bulk of a woman disappearing into the kitchen with a quick look over the shoulder. My friend on the left who has spent the whole day in a car the like of which some old fellow
would give to an actress: flower-holders, mirrors, curtains, plush seats–my friend on the left who is
chairman of the Streets committee of the town council–and who has spent the whole day studying automobile fire-engines in neighboring towns in view of purchase,–my friend, at the Elks last week at the
breaking-up hymn, signalled for them to let Bill–a familiar friend of the saloon-keeper–sing out all alone
to the organ–and he did sing!
Salz-rolls, exquisite! and Rhine wine ad libitum. A masterly caviar sandwich.
The children flitting about above stairs. The councilman has just bought a National eight–some car!
For heaven’s sake I mustn’t forget the halves of green peppers stuffed with cream cheese and whole walnuts!