Friday, October 12, 2007

Fertile Ground: Selected Poetry Read

Tracy K. Smith

It's easy to understand that girl's father
Telling her it's time to come in and eat.
Because the food is good and hot.
Because he has worked all day
In the same shirt, unbuttoned now
With its dirty neck and a patch
With his name on the chest.

The girl is not hungry enough
To go in. She has spent all day
Indoors playing on rugs, making her eyes
See rooms and houses where there is only
Shadow and light. She knows
That she knows nothing of the world,
Which makes the stoop where she kneels
So difficult to rise from.

But her father is ready to stuff himself
On mashed potatoes and sliced bread,
Ready to raise a leg of chicken to his lips,
Then a wing; to feel the heat enter through his teeth,
Skin giving way like nothing else
Will give way to him in this lifetime.

He's ready to take a bite
Of the pink tomatoes while his mouth
Is still full with something else,
To hurry it down his throat
With a swig of beer, shrugging
When his wife says, You're setting
A bad example. It doesn't matter-

Too many eyes without centers
For one day. Too many
Dice, cards, dogs with faces like sharks
Tethered to chains.
It gives him
An empty feeling below his stomach,
And all he can think to call it
Is appetite. And so he will lie
When he kisses his napkin and says
Hits the spot, as his daughter will lie
When she learns to parrot him,
Not yet knowing what her own appetite
Points to.

From The Body's Question by Tracy K. Smith

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