At the monkey-feast table
We are gathered at the table
all generations: it is low
to the floor: we sit cross legged: pass
bowls of bright food: share one
to another: I am reminded
of the gifts we give and find in odd
places: the atlas of anatomy: how
your father pointed to the plates
of facial muscles and said look: these
must be Jews: it was a German artist:
we were silent and our hands were
still: years later he had a letter
from a granddaughter: he had praised
the work: she had responded: I do
not recall the answer: I cannot
ask him if we truly used: studied
the murdered: if dates and times
were as he had surmised: this table
has a hole in the middle: just
as Gram said: just as in her girlhood
in rural China: there would sit the
monkey alive and frantic: soon the top
of his skull would be lifted: and we
would hold sharp spoons.
I am so helpless. I want to help him.
I love the boy. He loves her. He cuts
himself. He cuts into the burned places
of his own skin. I want to kiss that skin.
I want to hold him curled and warm
in my own heart. I want to make him
well. I love him. I have held him as he
vomited out the poisons he gives himself.
I have cleaned the sticky smell from his
mouth and kissed it. But he does not love
me. He does not remember those nights
when I took care of him. He does not
remember holding me back. He does not
listen to my love. Her. And she is hard.
Her. And she turns her back. I say: she
is not that good a person. I say: She
is not that pretty. I say: I love you.
I will. I will. He cannot hear. He wants
what he cannot have. He wants
what she will not give. He will not listen
to my love. Will. Won't. Mother, can
a good person believe she is better
than another? Mother?
Stuffed and Roasted
In general, people are idolaters.
Look at the pyramids--
their property was confiscated
when the cumin seeds began to darken.
You cannot escape from your fixed place in history;
statues cracking and toppling over,
holding the taut bow-string of spiritual practice,
the minced liver, the gizzard, and heart.
Completing his apprenticeship:
by the time I got to the check-out counter
it had a large cavity inside;
the animals were sweet and mild.
(C) Kelley Jean White 2001
Kelley Jean White
Born and raised in New Hampshire, Kelley has worked as a pediatrician in inner-city Philadelphia for the past twenty years.
"I started sending work two years ago with very modest goals but have had somewhat surprising success, with over 450 poems accepted or published by more than one hundred journals. A book of my "medical" poems, The Patient Presents, has been published this spring by The People's Press in Baltimore and a chapbook of very different material, "I am going to walk toward the sanctuary," will be published very soon by Nepenthe Books/Via Dolorosa Press."