Family Photograph, Thanksgiving 2005

You, in your football sweatshirt and your hair
cropped so short that after months of having watched it flow into your eyes
our grandfather says that you look like a Buddha-monk,

gazing down at the table with your hands in your pockets,
your wide-mouthed grin holding no more traces of the
brackets gone at last from a jawbone still too large –

smirking down at the Thanksgiving turkey,
though this year at your insistence it is a turducken:
chicken inside a duck inside a turkey,

that our father and grandmother got up at six a.m. to stuff,
the pater (so you call him) shaking his head while he measured out
four cups of salt, one of sugar to brine the meat, stirred gently

and left to soak overnight for best flavor while
the mater shook her head to leave you alone.
It is your last Thanksgiving before

you are to leave behind your library book sale novels, your
collection of unlabeled CD’s, your guitar with the sour top string
that you never would tune though I cringed each time

you picked out Metallica on a failing upper note,
and the one perfect hole punched, round, in the dining room wall
from the time you leaned just an inch too far back in your chair.

When it was my turn I wanted dinner the way it always was:
standard American turkey and bubbling pots of Chinese broth,
But you, with your turducken,

declared a coup in mid-October, and our parents
could do nothing but nod, and follow along grumbling,
because after all, when you left,

who would clear our grandfather’s bowl from the table in the evenings,
turn the house upside down to find a sheet the right color
for a movie backdrop, fill the hard drive with music that nobody listened to,

or the desktop with spyware that blocked the internet for a month,
and absently swing the grocery bag containing birthday cake
around your knees so that after dinner we had to wipe the spattered icing

from the inside of the box? While the noise of guests thickens
about your skull-smooth fuzz and the steam scrolls up to the windows
behind you, you press your thoughts towards the game, and how you stood

with one hand snuggled tight to the helmet, hoping to ignore the band
that droned laboriously on behind, because you could not turn,
lest the shrill of a piccolo cased one year in dust draw you back again

into the shadow of the sister who watches you now: little brother,
grown up, smirking down at the brown-gray layers of fowl
with all the triumph in the world.

— Iris Law

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Filed under Poetry, Vol 1 Issue 2

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