Sometimes, after we have clattered
to the table, elbowed each other,
hungry and rushed,we pause a quick moment
to say grace,
as though grace is something to recite
and not something to pour over each other,
not something we gasp for and lean on
in the dark night.
I wonder if grace before these steaming pots
might not sound more like a poem,
or, by necessity, a series of poems.
One poem about the pig that spent
its dusty days in a thick and pressing barn,
left its mother too soon, ran too little,
grunted its lines in the creation chorus
as loudly as it was able, with only
the skinny farm boy to hear it,
tried to live its one destiny with
all the enthusiasm it could muster
before the day it was dragged
to the corner of the lot where
they do the slaughtering,
saw its first stunned glimpse
of that blazing light in the sky
before it fell into the deep black,
its blood running in rivulets
in the already red mud, its strong
hind legs sliced over and over,
thin into bacon strips
that we scoop onto our plates,
complaining about the rain.
The next poem would be about the nyayo beans,
grown somewhere by someone- how is it
I can’t recall ever seeing a field of beans,
don’t know if they are picked by women
with baskets in this country,
are snapped from vines when they are green
then dried in the sun for days or months, or are
already dark speckled purple as they grow?
Where are the poets of the bean fields
to describe the curving green vines,
the sweat between the shoulder blades
of the bean picker?
Of course my family would lose patience,
not staying to listen to the poem about the cow
pouring her rich milk into cold buckets,
not to sustain her young bleating ones,
but to be carried away in diesel trucks
to the places where cheese is mysteriously
coaxed from that creamy life,
or the poem of the black mud
cradling the rice field,
of the island that birthed
the surprising peppercorn.
Much easier to say the grace
than to bow before it,
indebted and bereaved.