The Indecisive Dinner Guest

Riley Hines


Death is always better received

in mid-summer when mayflies hatch

from their coiled cocoons.


The births of deer pollute the air

with a new musk—that sweet smell of

wet fur and big, glassy eyes.


Death is foreign here, but not

ill-received. He comes with the cicadas

to the front porches of nursing homes.


He glides through the cracks in car windows

and, sucking the life dry as if it were a low-hanging plum, leaves

when he is full.


But in wintertime, that cavern that

sinks into Earth’s fabric with clouded mornings

and ink black nights, Death is

always, always, always, hungry.


He spreads his arms wide as the once-green creatures

shy away in sickness and thirst,

their rooty throats coated in snow and dust.


Death is a constant dinner-guest at winter’s door,

and here he grows insatiable and wild,

killing, killing, killing until all branches are dry and brittle

and all roads are slick with ice.


Death cannot consume enough of Himself, in

this the beginning of a new year, the old

sloughing away like dead skin and

sinking with frozen fish beneath a solid river.


We must wait for summer to return,

for the heat and fire-smoke to lull Him

into a desirable party-guest once more.


Here we wait, wait for Him to take what He must

from the banquet table of Life, praying that

he doesn’t take more than his fair share.



Riley Hines is a graduating senior at the University of Alabama. She loves all things fantasy, but is also drawn to horrific themes that make one’s skin crawl. Two of her poems can be found in Issue 30 of the Marr’s Field Journal.