Alexandra Umlas: Three Poems
Unwrapping you from your reasonable
packaging, I always feel some remorse
and carry your body tenderly to the pot
to lay you on your bed of citrus and sliced
onions, and pepper your skin with salt.
One time, I reached inside you to find
a neck and two hearts, unsure if any
were yours. There are over nine billion
of you alive, and still, each time I hold
you almost whole like this, slumped
and singular, like a small, cold baby,
your body goose-pimpled and clean,
I imagine your short, sharp journey
to here, seven weeks to market weight,
the assembly-line suspension
by two feet and low lighting, the stun
of electricity or carbon-dioxide,
a rub-bar on your breast, a single cut
to the throat, evisceration, chilling,
giblets sorted, your body
bagged. I heat you past your original
temperature to 165 degrees Fahrenheit,
until joints loosen, and bones turn
velvet. And after I have swallowed you,
in the dish-filled evening kitchen, I find
I am alone.
My mother makes dinner
almost every night:
white china plates, checked cloth napkins,
glasses of whole milk.
This night there is a steak centered
on each plate—
Porterhouse: half strip and half fillet.
the strip first, in small bites between
the fillet to the side of the plate for last.
My father must
have still been in his suit.
the starched straight collar and how
as he reached across the table’s wood,
my fillet with the four prongs of fork,
placing the piece in his mouth, saying
between rows of white teeth. Telling me,
you should never
save the best for last—it might not be there
when you are ready for it.
She looked not-quite-right
at nine, wearing fangs—
I can only describe it as baffling,
her mouth botched with them,
her hair in tangles. The shoppers
stared. It was almost October 31st
in America. She slept with them half
in that night, swore they would keep
her safe. When they fell on the pillow
next to her, they seemed to glint
in the sharp moon-light—
little plastic knives.
(Author photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher)