Chew Slowly, Swallow

Remember the red jello
heavy in a cloud of fever fog
the only thing you could keep down,
her hand brushing back your bangs,
the sweat, the pain, the gingerale and cartoons
that schoolday afternoon, your pink pajamas
and a couple hands of crazy eights. The ticking clock,
her worried look - mascara lines and sad smile -
or that Sunday dinner,

her arm around your shoulder
the blackberry pie, the Amazing Grace
and then you all dug in, having blessed
the blood stained Christ and all that meat
sacrificed to rest pan fried upon the table.
Remember his voice, as if in prayer: soft pious
insistence that you remember he'll always
be your father and that there are starving kids
who would kill to have the things you have

like your mother's chicken smothered in gravy.
Keep in mind, it could be worse. Chew slowly,
then recall the greasy ring around his mouth,
the unaccounted time, the woman at the corner,
his angry words, the threats, the fists, the broken glass.
Don't forget his slick white teeth, your mother's wince
as he bit into another thigh. Remember, sometimes
when it comes to tender flesh, he was one of those,
just another one of those, who will never get their fill.

Penelope Davis Greenwell

If you've any comments on this poem, Penelope Davis Greenwell would be pleased to hear from you.

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