By Kendra L. Tanacea
Carving a turkey, basted by his ex-wife, around a table
in this fall night. Children, dog at hearth.
Alone in your flat, loneliness settles in the chest:
phlegm. Dark meat sitting in watery gravy.
You’re home, while the man you sleep with clears
his ex-wife’s plate. I mean, she’s there in his house,
the one you’ve been naked in, wandering the kitchen,
looking for a snack in the shadow of Mount Tam.
It’s a cold place. Even his dog barks when you kiss,
and you are what you are: a stranger in a family’s home.
You walked yourself stupid today, to the ocean and back,
hoping to lose yourself in the people carrying yams
and pecan pies from their cars to front doors. You want
to stop imagining the scene, the setting and clearing,
the dumb domesticity of it all, scraps to the dog,
playing Pictionary, renting a movie. You think,
this is what I was meant to be: a sorry animal
aggravating her own wound. This persistent cough:
jealousy. Every ugly thing gathered into a cornucopia
of grievances: Thanksgiving.
by Kendra L. Tanacea
For My Grandfather
Every Sunday, church. In his gold shirt.
On Easter, in his black overcoat and buttonholed
carnation, he carved lamb from a spit in our yard.
Later, we danced in a tight circle. Opa! Papu.
When his daughter was born, he paid for the delivery
with an inlaid chest, fitting all those pieces together:
the concerned doctor, chin in hand, the feverish child,
the lantern’s honey-stained light.
On April Fools’ Day, his wife’s birthday, he carved
the skin off an orange in a continuous spiral,
recomposed it into a perfect whole, placed it
in the wooden fruit bowl.
When she could no longer speak, he made her
an easy chair. And combed her gray hair
and built us a home with its bones
on the outside. All those years of scaffolding.
After thirty years of piecework, after arthritis
bowed his fingers, he carved a chair for the bishop
with a relief of St. George, riding a rearing horse,
spearing the open-mouthed dragon.
He carved at night. Steady hand, chisel,
curlicues of wood. Sawdust resting in the wrinkles
of his pants, on his white mustache, in the hollow
of his good ear.
When he became ill, he sank into the love seat
by the plate-glass window. In silhouette,
his Einstein hair, Philip of Macedon nose,
and slight paunch that grew with cancer.
That February before he died, he carved Lincoln
out of snow. Great man seated on his chair,
chiseled features. At dusk, he splashed it
with water and, overnight, it iced like marble.