By Maxine W. Kumin b. 1925
The week in August you come home,
adult, professional, aloof,
we roast and carve the fatted calf
—in our case home-grown pig, the chine
garlicked and crisped, the applesauce
hand-pressed. Hand-pressed the greengage wine.
Nothing is cost-effective here.
The peas, the beets, the lettuces
hand sown, are raised to stand apart.
The electric fence ticks like the slow heart
of something we fed and bedded for a year,
then killed with kindness’s one bullet
and paid Jake Mott to do the butchering.
In winter we lure the birds with suet,
thaw lungs and kidneys for the cat.
Darlings, it’s all a circle from the ring
of wire that keeps the raccoons from the corn
to the gouged pine table that we lounge around,
distressed before any of you was born.
Benign and dozy from our gluttonies,
the candles down to stubs, defenses down,
love leaking out unguarded the way
juice dribbles from the fence when grounded
by grass stalks or a forgotten hoe,
how eloquent, how beautiful you seem!
Wearing our gestures, how wise you grow,
ballooning to overfill our space,
the almost-parents of your parents now.
So briefly having you back to measure us
is harder than having let you go.
Perhaps the World Ends Here
By Joy Harjo b. 1951
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
BY TIM NOLAN
Thanks for the Italian chestnuts—with their
tough shells—the smooth chocolaty
skin of them—thanks for the boiling water—
itself a miracle and a mystery—
thanks for the seasoned sauce pan
and the old wooden spoon—and all
the neglected instruments in the drawer—
the garlic crusher—the bent paring knife—
the apple slicer that creates six
perfect wedges out of the crisp Haralson—
thanks for the humming radio—thanks
for the program on the radio
about the guy who was a cross-dresser—
but his wife forgave him—and he
ended up almost dying from leukemia—
(and you could tell his wife loved him
entirely—it was in her deliberate voice)—
thanks for the brined turkey—
the size of a big baby—thanks—
for the departed head of the turkey—
the present neck—the giblets
(whatever they are)—wrapped up as
small gifts inside the cavern of the ribs—
thanks—thanks—thanks—for the candles
lit on the table—the dried twigs—
the autumn leaves in the blue Chinese vase—
thanks—for the faces—our faces—in this low light.
Thanksgiving for Two
BY MARJORIE SAISER
The adults we call our children will not be arriving
with their children in tow for Thanksgiving.
We must make our feast ourselves,
slice our half-ham, indulge, fill our plates,
potatoes and green beans
carried to our table near the window.
We are the feast, plenty of years,
arguments. I’m thinking the whole bundle of it
rolls out like a white tablecloth. We wanted
to be good company for one another.
Little did we know that first picnic
how this would go. Your hair was thick,
mine long and easy; we climbed a bluff
to look over a storybook plain. We chose
our spot as high as we could, to see
the river and the checkerboard fields.
What we didn’t see was this day, in
our pajamas if we want to,
wrinkled hands strong, wine
in juice glasses, toasting
the decades of side-by-side,
our great good luck.