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Another Turkey Day : Another Fight

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I’ve had many Thanksgivings in my lifetime – 64 to be exact. Some Thanksgivings were solemn while some were in need of police intervention. This Thanksgiving, I vow to not argue, fight, or suffer even the slightest guilt over the kind of turkey that will be consumed by my family. I won’t.

From my working-class childhood to my middle-class life in the hinterlands of western New York, I’ve learned that a turkey, any turkey, even just the smell of a roasting turkey is a must. I’ve come to this conclusion via my mom who would, surveying her kitchen early Thursday morning, pronounce the beginning of the holiday by saying, “Let’s get this place smelling like Thanksgiving.” And so she would.

We live in interesting times when it comes to the food we put on our plates. I’ve suffered the slings and arrows shot from the self-righteous and well heeled. And I’ve walked through a Whole Foods store. So I think I understand the vaygeshray that surrounds the argument between the factory-farmed turkeys and those birds who’ve been raised in the weedless fields of the free-range mind. Suffering. It’s all about suffering.

The Thanksgivings of my childhood were only fraught with decisions around frozen vs. non-frozen and the turkey’s weight – questions easily answered by my parent’s current budget. Today, one can run from pillar to post in attempts to be politically correct and can, after taking out a second mortgage on one’s home, get the totally natural turkey; one that slept on down comforters and was fed on manna dropped from the hands various gods of free-range practices. And so, for more than a few years, my husband and I opted for the expensive, middle-class-guilt reducing bird that needed the strength and precision of Seal-team 6 to cut through. But hey, the bird didn’t suffer. It could hardly have suffered as much as we did – chewing, chewing, and chewing on what seemed like the dusty, original, leather-bound edition of Moby Dick!

So, this Thursday I vow (in honor of my late mom) to get up early and get my house “…smelling like Thanksgiving.” I will give thanks for the many blessings that have been bestowed upon me and mine. Also, I will acknowledge the original (yet unspoken) theft this holiday commemorates with an apology for the suffering of native Americans – a suffering that gets lost in the concern for an ugly bird that we will slice and dice with impunity. And after all of this, I will gladly testify before the senate committee on turkey injustice. I will raise my right hand, and swear to tell the truth before all the gods of political correctness that, yes, I bought a commercial, salt injected bird at 89¢ a pound. A bird that probably gobbled horribly as it was being killed; a bird that may have had siblings that hated him or her for a fat-breasted success; a bird that had no idea what a future was or that there was a senate committee committed to his or her happiness. Yes, I ate such a bird and I found it – GOOD.

THE STORY OF US

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Speaking of time, I took a course

To sate curiosity

Just how someone else believes

Our super species came to be

~

The Story of Us told online

Puts to rest the tooth & nail

Survival, fittest at the top

of the mountain from which we hail

~

Twas not the ax or large of tooth

That got us to the peak

Sizeless and vulnerable all we had

Was our ability to speak

~

A warring species we overcame

Doubt and annihilation

With voice and reason we invented

Inner-species cooperation

~

No easy ride to top of the chain

Even so it happened fast

Early sapiens frightened sheep

How long could this good thing last

~

Doubt returned to fortify

Ourselves against the other

We don the pelt and tooth of wolf

Taking aim against our brother

~

Now we strut our claws and fangs

To intimidate the weak

What’s more dangerous than angry wolves?

Frightened, heavily armed sheep

The Ghosts of Jr. High

Jr. hi sch

They advertise the old junior high school now

as luxury apartments.

A community of renters of classrooms now

better used as kitchens, bedrooms and

living spaces.

 

I wonder about the Feng Shui of old schools –

is there such a thing?

What about the sleepwalking renter who turns

down the wrong hallway and finds himself

at the mercy of the bruised hands of the bully.

He better keep lunch money in his pajamas

to soften the blows.

Bullies don’t die; they are the hissing saboteurs

that live long on the shoulders of the bullied. I know

I wonder about that old mattresses full of dirty secrets

from the musty storage area under the auditorium stage?

 

What about the science labs? All those electrical outlets?

To be used in the bedrooms maybe?

 

And the principal’s office? Those silent walls painted in a white

sadness faded gray with by the

hollow projections of success. And the chairs

just outside – chairs that held the scared &

waiting and the tears of the kid who solved

her problems with her fists, whose father

would do the same.

Ahh, those weighted 10 minutes felt an

unmerciful hour of despair – many times.

 What about the guidance office – off course for sure –

 sailing past abridged horizons of the disadvantaged

 rich and poor. The test scores that tell too little locked

 away from any potential help.

 

What about the cafeteria; that battlefield of emotion

all watched over by bullets and targets.

Fear palpable, quaking food trays

passing the cool tables. Hip A&F, Gap,

& old navy, establishing beachheads

waiting for dispatches from the

cute banana republics

shielding frightened dictators

in well-decorated spider holes.

 

And the gymnasium with its polished hardwood that

felt like stone when struck by the head.

What about the janitor who cleaned that

hardwood of blood that gushed

from your wound? Did he harbor sympathy

for you? For your victimhood? Or did he give

that imperceptible nod to an abuser’s covenant?

 

And what about the locker rooms and the gym

teacher who waved, back and forth, a

yardstick through your new Afro laughing

derisively in spite of her over-pressed &

outdated hairstyle?

 

And remember your heart breaking with all the pain

of a truth  that couldn’t be spoken.

 

On Sunday, there will be an open house at the old

junior high school that has been converted into

luxury apartments.

No need to go. I’ve seen it all before.

Morning’s Reflection

CROP OakAlley Plantat Louisiana

FEAR: that invention that keeps us good

Believing in that house at

The end of a road

Paved with distraction

No signs posted for talent or genius nor

turnoffs for iron-hard reality – adulthood

That cul-de-sac of desire

Fear-driven success

The locking mechanism

Brings dispatches

From the big house –

The brain;

That Swiss Army Knife of survival

In the Kitchen of Memory

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Theirs are the young faces brightened

By the garish blue-light of their toys

They look up to cast wary, beleaguered eyes at us

“What do we know?”

We have left the living rooms to them for their disposal

Seated on comfortable sofas and chairs – our gifts for their retreat

We huddle in kitchens preparing healthy meals

For children who are no longer

And will have nothing to eat

As they rewrite their lives in 140 characters or less

Living on likes and bytes

No thought given to the time-capsule in the attic

The one that holds the baby clothes and tangible

Photographs of all their ‘firsts.’

And the trunk jammed packed with sheet

Music for instruments

They’ve forgotten how to play

Maybe they’ll want to explore one day

Like they used to

Sneak into the attic and see the Polaroids –

The young, beautiful couple beaming at their baby

“Who are they?”

They are the originators of your story

The authors who’ve shared the same pen

Picking up when one partner drifts off

Crawling away to heal the cuts

To hearts now cowering in kitchens

Licking the sweet spoons of memory

A Country For No Child

Jaime Kalenga, whose mother died in labor, suffers from malnutrition and tuberculosis. Credit Nicholas Kristof/The New York Times
Jaime Kalenga, whose mother died in labor, suffers from malnutrition and tuberculosis. Credit Nicholas Kristof/The New York Times

There is a country rich in diamonds,

Oil and foreign sports cars

I know this – having read it in

The Times

This is a country in which one child

In six will die before the age of five

Says The Times’ Kristof

But I live in a country that cares

About children – Some of us

Care so much we call authorities

On parents whose children walk

Home from the park – alone

Keeping our children absurdly safe

Ignoring the Angolan mother holding

The “twig limbs,” swollen belly, wizened face

Of the near carcass that is her child

She’s waiting for care from the few who do

Those people who come from far off places to nurse and

Heal everyone’s children

Those people who know that diamonds

Are friend to no one

The people who recognize

The diamond’s sparkle

Being stolen everyday

From the eyes of babies

Leaving in its place a

Haunted spectacle, skeletal frame

Held together in wrinkled brown

Wrappings of skin

The Beloved Monster

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Walking against the wind

Off the lake slows my pace

I consider the remnants of

The coldest February on record

The receding snow

Pulling back from last night’s rain

Leaving molded columns of

Autumn’s leaves

Along the road

Heaped dirty and waiting huge

Ice & snow mounds long since

Spent of fun and wonder that

Came new last December

March is here with its uneven

Message: promises of what might be

The patches of green

Slicing white winter

Mocking romantic winter havens

Warmth upended with

The old wooden mailbox

After the passing of

The beloved monster

Patron saint of the winter road:

The snowplow

KITE SEASON

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Happiness builds a fast fire
Underfoot the running child
In fields wild with flowers
Laughing, some unknown joy,
That life will be good

Happiness forces arms open
New experience
Embracing daring
Nothing but youth

Before receding to the corners
Beaten back by the collected ticks
A clock and a heart weary
Holding happiness at bay

Then comes
The thumping hush
That muscle upon which
Nothing is lost

Rolling and dipping
Tethered calmly against
Winds of age & change:

Happiness,
Flying its own kite

MARCH 3rd

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It’s still here; winter

Marching to that clove of seasons

We remain road-kill

Frozen, run over by ice and time

Clutching fingers stiffened releasing

Any vestige of warm memory

And all the light

That winter allows

To see war as it is

(Not the misguided

Miscalculations of man)

But nature’s

Mysteries of the obvious

Safeguards of Spring

swans & mallards

The lake is down –

To the frozen edges

A swan or two

And tasteless

Geese footing

To rocky nests

Where they curl into

Feathery boulders among

The cold pebbles

Upon which you’ll slip

Next summer

 

Try to find music in

Canadian geese honking

All night – by morning

You’ll know all about

Exercising in futility

 

They remain in spite of disdain

Small fluffy armadas floating in

February 28th’s icy water

Honking in a frosty daybreak

 

And, just when you’re ready

To curse the freezing dun

Madness of the season

An arcing muster of mallards

Waving in decisive consideration

Of parting clouds

Lands, arching necks

Off which the sun glints its elegant

Emerald promise of spring