The Living Teaching
You wanted to be a butcher
but they made you be a lawyer.
You brought home presents
when it was nobody’s birthday.
Smashed platters of meat
she cut against the grain.
Were a kind
of portable shrine—
I was supposed to cultivate a field of bliss,
then return to my ordinary mind.
You burned the files
and moved the office.
Made your children fear
a different school.
Liked your butter hard
and your candy frozen.
Were a kind
of diamond drill, drilling a hole
right through my skull―
quality sleep, late November.
What did it mean, “field of bliss”―
A sky alive “with your greatest mentor”―
I wore your shoes, big as boats,
flopped through the house―
while you made garlic eggs with garlic salt, what
“represents the living teaching”―
Sausages on toasted rye with a pickle,
and a smother of cheese, and
right out of the can without the cake―
with a knife in one hand and a fork in the other, you raged
at my stony mother, while I banged
from my high chair, waving
the bloodied bone
of something slaughtered―I was
a butcher’s daughter.
So all hail to me―
Os Gurges, Vortex Mouth, I gap my craw
and the bakeries of the cities fall, I
stomp the docks―spew out a bullet-stream
of oyster shells, I’ll
drain the seas―the silos
on every farm, the rice
from the paddy fields, the fruit
from all the orchard trees, and then I’ll
eat the trees―
I’ll eat with money and I’ll eat
with my teeth until the rocks
and the mountains curl
and my blood sings―
I’m such a good girl
to eat the world.
From Banana Palace by Dana Levin, published by Copper Canyon Press. Copyright © 2016 by Dana Levin. Used with permission of Copper Canyon Press.
Dana Levin is the author of Banana Palace (Copper Canyon Press, 2016) and Sky Burial (Copper Canyon Press, 2011), among other books. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
Date Published: 2016-10-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/living-teaching