Watching our uncle carve that year,
we children shifted in our chairs,
each of us wriggling at the waist
where the sympathy pains hurt worst.
He held the knife in his fingertips
like a surgeon. When he split the breast
a searing breath of steam was released
that gathered into sweat on his lips.
More quickly than a child’s hunger
starts nagging he had stripped it bare.
He wiped his mouth with an expert finger,
then—giving neither thanks nor prayer
for the bird we were about to eat—
served himself the choicest meat.
From hand to hand the weighty platter
was passed, lightening as it circled,
silently first, until one child
juggled the serving fork and giggled.
Everyone joked till the room was filled
with carrot-gossip and stuffing-chatter
and it was too late (or so we feared)
for our unheard hungry cries to be answered.
But at that moment my father stood,
wielding a leg as if it were
a staff, and (though he looked as scared
and a small boy on that Thanksgiving,
opposed by talented voices) dared
to speak in praise of birds and living.