Round Table: An “Entertainment” for Don Coles

“It is not generally known that the famous Algonquin Round Table was founded by Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker to protect Robert Sherwood from midgets.”
—Daniel P. Mannix, Freaks

Overcast’s almost the word:
Don looms across the table
like that (outside) misted mountain—
grey (yet grinning) eyes,
clothes and hair grey, too.
I used to joke (a sullen teenaged thing)
my favourite colour.

In this early morning lounge in Banff
Don and I struggle (without success)
to give our chairs and table clear directions
to the subways of ourselves.
But this furniture’s out on a day-pass,
weird-voiced and oddly-mannered,
tho’ also, clearly, Average born and bred

and we are not.
Don’s kneecaps when he sits turn into earmuffs,
and I’m still lighting candles for this miracle mundane
:that once, just once, my feet will touch the floor…

Right, then—I can’t help it:
(a sing-song voice)
mountain-like Don and
this lake-glass table and
my poems floating on it like

(yes, you guessed it) clouds

which proves my point:
I am a midget.
Don, after all, would never write that.
He’d rather miss a serve than stoop so low.

At this table in Banff,
Don’s not been Parker’d, midget-proofed—
he’s bought this midget coffee, even
dubbed one poem fine!
another good!

His modest, paper-bottom scrawl’s the only tiny thing about him.

More here about Sherwood (six foot seven):

“A troupe of midgets was playing at the Hippodrome near the Vanity Fair office where Sherwood, Benchley and Dorothy Parker worked, and whenever Sherwood left the building, the midgets would follow him, asking, ‘How’s the weather up there?’ and other jibes. Finally, Parker and Benchley went along as guards for their giant friend, and learned to rush him into the Algonquin Hotel for lunch.”

(Unlike those carnival dwarves
I managed to resist the wee, court-jester urge when
me & Coles were cocktail-party standing and incongruous,
to say If you’ll excuse us, Don and I are off to join the circus.)

Up here, Don does the steering —
since I never got my license—
slow-driving to the Shiningesque Springs Hotel
to try their justly famous margaritas
(which, as photographs attest,
I had no business gulping down.)

That lesson learned, a bigger one:
sometimes my work’s O.K.!
I even have Don’s skidmark ink
on paper snow to prove it


And one thing more:

decency and talent can,
joined at the hip, lead
notwithstanding, gentle, happy lives.
And die too within hours of each other.

Don leaves to boost some other Banffees’ low morale
with exclamation points of chocolate coffee.
I pretend to write my postcards, really
watch their posture smile, their
faces open when he speaks


I like this!


This Don is one helluva guy
I write, and
The weather up here is fine