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High Tea with Miss Julianna


by Paul Mariani

"Begin at the beginning," the King said gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop."

In the land of the JubJub together they had tea.
High tea, one has to understand, six cups of imaginary
tea, the good Miss Julianna Frances, aged two
and a half, and her grandfather, sixty-four. "How do
you do this afternoon, Miss Julianna," he began,
good manners there in JubJub Land
being understood and de rigueur between
the Professor and his finical little Queen.
Sporting diapers beneath her summer dress,
she poured her airy tea in cups with such finesse
they might've been in Queen Victoria's drawing room
instead of in his modest parlor. "Might I presume
upon you, my lady dear, for yet another piece of cake?"
"Oh, sure," she too demurely said. "But let me bake
it first. It will only take one minute." I.e., one minute
in her understanding, for they had time within it
for another cup or two or four or six or three
of Miss Julianna's very best imaginary tea,
and time for her to sit upon his lap so he might read her
all about the Midnight Land of JubJub and then confer
together about the best way to pick the naughty dirts
from between their toes, or which of her many skirts
her dolly, coincidentally named for Daddy John,
should wear, and which chair he should sit upon
if Daddy John were to be invited to partake
of tea with them, together with a second piece of cake,
which was humming along just fine in the imaginary
oven in the slowly darkening room. High tea
on a Sunday afternoon at summer's end,
sweet credences of summer. How better to spend
an hour, a day, a year? And Alice leading down
the rabbit hole, and him following into JubJub town,
and all cares left behind now, as the little girl—who would
not be little long—beckoned towards the still-enchanted wood.

Paul Mariani is the University Professor of English at Boston College and the author of God and the Imagination: Poetry, Poets, and the Ineffable (2002) and Thirty Days: On Retreat with the Exercises of St. Ignatius (2002).


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