at breakfast

After Billy Collins’ “A Portrait of the Reader with a Bowl of Cereal”

forgive me for breaking the silence,
but i was getting tired of the way
you were staring straight through me
and out the window toward the garden.
maybe it was because mrs. sparrow
was once again trying
(courageously, ridiculously, disastrously)
to fit an over-large bit of nesting material
into the teal blue mango-wood house
meant for chickadees, or maybe,
the next post over, a squirrel was stretching himself
impossibly far to try to eat all the sunflower seeds
from the bird feeder. or maybe you were squinting
to catch a glimpse of the sunflowers’ own shining faces
adoringly fixed on the sky
(i’ll save your eyesight and just tell you they still haven’t bloomed)—
maybe you were thinking of all of these things,
or none of them, as you stared straight through me,
but, frankly, i am tired of being invisible.
i was a child in the days you started staring
through the window at the trees, or the birds,
or the squirrels staring back at you as you tried
to eat your breakfast of berries and cream,
jam and toast and tea in reasonable solitude.
isn’t that, after all, the only thing a poet wants?
i once heard someone say, misquoting sartre,
that “hell is other people at breakfast.”
perhaps, all these years later,
i am now giving you hell in the form of a cereal bowl,
a coffee mug, and a rumpled little woman squinting at you
from the other side of the table.
forgive me for breaking the silence,
but a door has swung open in the morning air,
and i and my spoonful of milk have slipped through.
there is no paper for you to hide behind now.