Thanksgiving in the Anthropocene, 2015

Craig Santos Perez
Thank you, instant mashed potatoes, your bland taste 
makes me feel like an average American. Thank you, 
 
incarcerated Americans, for filling the labor shortage 
and packing potatoes in Idaho. Thank you, canned 
 
cranberry sauce, for your gelatinous curves. Thank you, 
Ojibwe tribe in Wisconsin, your lake is now polluted 
 
with phosphate-laden discharge from nearby cranberry 
bogs. Thank you, crisp green beans, you are my excuse 
 
for eating apple pie à la mode later. Thank you, indigenous 
migrant workers, for picking the beans in Mexico’s farm belt, 
 
may your children survive the season. Thank you, NAFTA, 
for making life dirt cheap. Thank you, Butterball Turkey, 
 
for the word, butterball, which I repeat all day butterball
butterball, butterball because it helps me swallow the bones 
 
of genocide. Thank you, dark meat, for being so juicy 
(no offense, dry and fragile white meat, you matter too). 
 
Thank you, 90 million factory-farmed turkeys, for giving 
your lives during the holidays. Thank you, factory-farm 
 
workers, for clipping turkey toes and beaks so they don’t scratch 
and peck each other in overcrowded, dark sheds. Thank you, 
 
genetic engineering and antibiotics, for accelerating 
their growth. Thank you, stunning tank, for immobilizing 
 
most of the turkeys hanging upside down by crippled legs. 
Thank you, stainless steel knives, for your sharpened 
 
edge and thirst for throat. Thank you, de-feathering 
tank, for your scalding-hot water, for finally killing the last
 
still-conscious turkeys. Thank you, turkey tails, for feeding 
Pacific Islanders all year round. Thank you, empire of 
 
slaughter, for never wasting your fatty leftovers. Thank you, 
tryptophan, for the promise of an afternoon nap;
 
I really need it. Thank you, store-bought stuffing, 
for your ambiguously ethnic flavor, you remind me 
 
that I’m not an average American. Thank you, gravy, 
for being hot-off-the-boat and the most beautiful 
 
brown. Thank you, dear readers, for joining me at the table 
of this poem. Please join hands, bow your heads, and repeat
 
after me: “Let us bless the hands that harvest and butcher 
our food, bless the hands that drive delivery trucks 
 
and stock grocery shelves, bless the hands that cooked 
and paid for this meal, bless the hands that bind 
 
our hands and force-feed our endless mouth. 
May we forgive each other and be forgiven.”
 

More by Craig Santos Perez

SPAM's carbon footprint

Guam is considered the SPAM® capital of the world. On average, each Chamorro consumes 16 tins of SPAM® each year, which is more per capita than any country in the world. Headline: Guam Struggles to Find Its Roots From Beneath Growing Piles of SPAM®. Guam, Hawaii, and Saipan have the only McDonald's restaurants that feature SPAM® on the menu. I went to the "World's Largest K-Mart" in Guam and I was amazed at the SPAM® display…it was like a whole "Wall of SPAM®." SPAM® has a place not only in the stomachs of Guam's people, but in our hearts as well. Here SPAM® is considered a gourmet luxury and is often presented as a gift at birthdays, weddings, and funerals. Hormel even made a Hot and Spicy SPAM® especially formulated for Guam with Tabasco already added to it! A culinary legacy of American troops stationed in the Pacific during World War Two, the GIs noticed how much the people of Guam loved SPAM®, so they started to jokingly call it "Chamorro Steak." Not coincidentally, SPAM® is also popular in Hawaii, the Philippines, Okinawa, and Saipan, all places with a history of a U.S. military presence. In fact, SPAM® may have been responsible for Hitler's defeat. The Allies would not have won WWII without SPAM®. Plus, it's processed so I guess we can keep it forever right? Wow, I haven't seen this much SPAM® since I lived on Guam and the car dealership there started offering 50lb bags of rice and cases of SPAM® with every purchase. The end result can be found in the newspaper's obituary pages. In 2004, Public Health reported that heart disease was the leading cause of death on Guam, representing 33.7% of deaths. You can rub the entire block of SPAM®, along with the accompanying delicious gelatinous goo, onto wood furniture. The oils from the SPAM® moisturize the wood and give the furniture a nice luster. Plus, you'll have enough left over to polish some of your neighbors' furniture. You'll be like Santa Claus meets Mr. Clean. How did I miss hearing about the "In Honor of Guam's Liberation" SPAM®! I thought I had collected them all! But as I got older and tried to be "healthier" (whatever that means, haha), SPAM® faded from my consciousness. Then I met my future wife, who is Hawaiian, and SPAM® became part of my life again. Maybe the economic downturn will help people truly appreciate SPAM® instead of loathing it. SPAM® doesn't have to be unhealthy. I eat SPAM® on a regular basis and I'm not dead yet. Just switch to SPAM® Lite. In the devastating wake of Typhoon Omar, SPAM® arrived. Hormel Foods donated 40,000 cases of the belly-filling foodstuff to the Salvation Army's disaster relief effort. That's about six million SPAM®burgers! Despite rumors, SPAM® is NOT made of such odds and ends as hooves, ears, brains, native people, or whole baby pigs. SPAM® is for realz made of pork shoulder, ham, salt, water, sugar, and sodium nitrate, if you can belief it. The name itself stands for Specially Processed Army Meat, Salted Pork And More, Super Pink Artificial Meat, Squirrel Possum And Mouse, or Some People Are Missing. My uncle is the reigning Guam SPAM® king. He won the last SPAM® cook-off with his Spicy SPAM® meatballs. I will never forget the two-pound SPAM® bust of George Washington he made for Liberation Day, toasted crispy on the outside with raw egg yolk in the hollow center. The kids loved it! Only a fool would start a company in Guam that provides SPAM® protection. We don't want to be protected from SPAM® bots. For Xmas, I bought a SPAM® snow-globe featuring a can of SPAM® sitting on an island; turn it over and a typhoon swirls madly, unable to unseat SPAM® from its place of honor. I have a souvenir can I bought after seeing Monty Python's SPAM®ALOT on Broadway. It cost me $10 and is the most expensive SPAM® I've ever bought. I will never eat it.

understory (week 35)

“she’s kicking”
nālani says 
 
holds my
hands against
 
her belly 
so warm! 
 
chicken broth
boils in
 
the crockpot
bones turn
 
in briny 
liquid—baby
 
kicks again
can she
 
feel my
body heat? 
 
magma rises
water into
 
steam—Kīlauea 
drill, turbine
 
Mauna Loa
grid, undersea
 
cables—is
geothermal safe? 
 
baby’s so 
active tonight 
 
nālani presses
my palms
 
deeper into
this skin
 
drum e
Pele e

from Understory

(to my wife, nālani
and our 7-month old daughter, kai)

kai cries
from teething—

how do
new parents

comfort a
child in

pain, bullied
in school,

shot by
a drunk

APEC agent?
#justicefor

-kollinelderts—
nālani gently

massages kai's
gums with

her fingers—
how do

we wipe
away tear-

gas and
blood? provide

shelter from
snipers? disarm

occupying armies?
#freepalestine—

nālani sings
to kai

a song
about the

Hawaiian alphabet—
what dreams

will echo
inside detention

centers and
cross teething

borders to
soothe the

thousands of
children atop

la bestia?
#unaccompanied—

nālani rubs
kai's back

warm with
coconut oil—

how do
we hold

violence at
arm's length

when raising
[our] hands

up is
no longer

a universal
sign of

surrender? #black
livesmatter—

kai finally
falls asleep

in nālani's
cradling arms,

skin to
skin against

the news—
when do

we tell
our daughter

there's no
safe place

for us
to breathe #...

Related Poems

Thanks

Thanks for the tree
between me & a sniper's bullet.
I don't know what made the grass
sway seconds before the Viet Cong
raised his soundless rifle.
Some voice always followed,
telling me which foot
to put down first.
Thanks for deflecting the ricochet
against that anarchy of dusk.
I was back in San Francisco
wrapped up in a woman's wild colors,
causing some dark bird's love call
to be shattered by daylight
when my hands reached up
& pulled a branch away
from my face. Thanks
for the vague white flower
that pointed to the gleaming metal
reflecting how it is to be broken
like mist over the grass,
as we played some deadly
game for blind gods.
What made me spot the monarch
writhing on a single thread
tied to a farmer's gate,
holding the day together
like an unfingered guitar string,
is beyond me. Maybe the hills
grew weary & leaned a little in the heat.
Again, thanks for the dud
hand grenade tossed at my feet
outside Chu Lai. I'm still
falling through its silence.
I don't know why the intrepid
sun touched the bayonet,
but I know that something
stood among those lost trees
& moved only when I moved.