We are three and six and eight
and all we hunger for are the ambiguous shapes
that huddle beneath the tree, their entities obscured
by gussy prints and packaging. Skirting
and prodding their edges with our tiny fingers,
we play maddening guessing games
and feel shameful of our secret greed
on this most sacred occasion.
Our begging is no match for tradition,
and we will eat dinner before opening presents,
as we have always done. Sitting restlessly
at our little fold-out card table, we make a pact
to eat quickly – but then there is turkey
and stuffing and gravy and cabbage rolls
(I surgically slit the roll with my butter knife,
plunder the rice and bacon entrails, and
turn the offending cabbage over to my father,
the family trash compactor)
all shaped and roasted by my aunt and grandmother
like a song born of love and thin air. Moist breading
and soft butter are an unforeseen distraction.
Pop can empty and mouth dry, I sniff
at my grandfather’s glass of Coke for that telltale stink
(a few unexpected sips of bitter rye
taught all the grandchildren to sniff first)
and sneak gulps from my father’s glass instead.
Then dessert: the torture
of having to wait for every adult to finish
their coffee, not only so we can get to the presents
but also so we can eat the leftover éclairs.
We kick at each other under the table, antsy
with sugar highs, and wonder aloud
(purposely too loud)
how anyone can take sooo long
to finish a little cup of coffee.
Our mothers shush us
and ask for refills, but we know
eventually our fathers will cave.
This poem was written in response to Prompt #102 on Read Write Poem.
Thanks to all the people who helped me win the ThoseGirlsAreWild Contest! Check out the winner post, in which the amazing Andrea sings my requested Stevie Wonder song. I also won a copy of Shannon's sensational book, Laid: Young People's Experiences with Sex in an Easy-Access Culture (this is now my second copy -- yes, it's that good).
Photo by Kelvin Kay
The theme of this poetry prompt is how food can be so deeply connected with memories. What meal or food do you associate with a particular memory or person?