object permanence

One has no choice but to look at one’s reflection in the mirror.

Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

out of town we walk into a cramped Mexican restaurant
i resist thinking “claustrophobic” and running out

beside me you whisper “see what she is reading”
and i look at the slim volume on a small table

where a dark-haired woman in her 40s is sitting alone:
Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality, Part 1

compulsively my brain begins imagining who she is
while we are guided to jumbled tables in a corner

who reads Foucault midday in claustrophobic restaurants?
i wonder feeling your bare knee pressing against mine

one day we all come to realize
when someone leaves the room

that person still exists even when out of sight
like a toy hidden behind someone’s back

and then as well we come to recognize
we are surveilled always from every angle

but no one ever really sees us completely
(we prisoners of knowing only our reflections)

i do not run from the restaurant
but instead put my hand on your knee

under a table barely larger than a book
anchoring myself there to you

–P.L. Thomas