"Their Old Knives"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Sept. 15 2009 6:55 AM

"Their Old Knives"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear  W.S. Di Piero read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.
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For the livers and lasagna, the tomatoes planted
in broken concrete backyard plots in spring,
when Havana's tropicals and flamingo heat
migrated toward our own city summer,
for Jersey beans loving 9th Street's market sun
where women frowned and men sold glory,
and August's soggy long summer skies boomed
and purpled before rain fell on our heads
like an end of time, for artichoke points and plums,
for watermelon hissing back at this blade
that once turned its other cheek to day-old
brick-oven bread, your fine uneven edges
faintly silvered once I diamond-steel
their grinded, used-up years of rust and gray …
Be ready for my needs, to do the work you know,
to answer hunger at odd times like these,
around midnight, or six hours later, the cantaloupe
or breakfast crust, then lunchtime's cold cuts,
dinner's cutlets, scunions, beets, you knives
and silver dollars and unlikely crystal flutes …
the precious few things, except for their lives,
that I saved from the house of the dead,
where they argued, flashed you like batons
at their enemy, themselves, before or after food,
be ready for whatever waits in half-dark now,
for telltale chance, or fatal cherishing.

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W.S. Di Piero's most recent book of poems is Chinese Apples. He lives in San Francisco.

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