I have no actual memory
of its taste— rough bit of roast
meat from the beast’s mouth,
severed by my father with glee
and put into my own to suck
as I flailed in the white sack
of baptism clothes. What
possessed our kin to think
the gift of words, of brave
speech, might come out
of some magic rite of transfer
from this animal that once
rooted in the mud, grunting in-
decipherable syllables
all night? I still think of it
sometimes, and wonder when
and how, finally, I changed
from girl terrified of speaking
into a telephone receiver or
whispering to plead
forgiveness behind the dark
screen of a confessional,
to an ear attuned to my
own growing voice?

No grocer that I’ve seen
here in this land of styrofoam
trays and plastic liners
wants to put the gross parts
of the body on display: only
crowns of bone and pink flesh
tied with string, spiralled hams
dripping with cut sugar squares.
Far from the cool glare of lights
and freezer cases, somewhere
in the countryside: the feathered
babble of hens, the narrow
stalls where other beasts
are penned—whatever
it is they might be saying,
a register that goes as far
as the axe and the block—

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