Thursday, January 18, 2007

They Cut the Same, You Know

I got this line prompt from Tiel Anisha Ansari’s post on Poetry Thursday. Out of all the lines left, and there were a lot of good ones, this one spoke to me the most. I was able to almost immediately envision what I wanted to do with it.

I work at a culinary college teaching English & Literature, which can be invigorating or maddening, depending on how willing my students are to step outside of themselves. This poem is directly influenced by that experience, hence the knives and meat.

I was very pleased to find, after I wrote this poem of course, that the original author’s poem “Knives of Sorrow, Knives of Joy” also contain knife imagery. Great minds…


Most mornings, my students stand
at chrome tables, watching
an instructor lecture on primal
cuts of meat. Cold

carcasses lie before them,
white lines of fat glistening
against a field of blue, pink
and red. Knives in hand,

they go to work,
gently carving flesh from bone,
separating the choice
portions of meat from the gristle,

tenderloin, eye round,
flank and blade.
In my class, they slump in seats,
exhausted. I show them

a language, whole,
before slicing it into sections,
subject, verb, predicate,
modifier. Together,

we carve away,
removing the unsavory,
the spoiled, the over or under
used musculature of their words.

Their eyes glaze over, milky pools
of white. They say
they’re tired, they don’t understand.
They wield knives and I

wield words. I tell them,
they cut the same, you know.


Tiel Aisha Ansari said...

Nice! I like the analogy. It's tough teaching a class like that-- I assume it's a distributional requirement or something, since apparently they don't actually want to take it?

Poet with a Day Job said...

9-5 you blew me away with this poem! I had NO idea where you were going, but your images kept me so tightly focused I could not and did not want to look away - and there we were: in a poem about words and people, people connecting through words, and through learning how to use them. I love it. Truly. Language is what connects us, and when poems which are connective language step out of themselves to talk about the very thing they are doing and do it as well as yours did - I am simply in awe. Very well done!

Jessica said...

Thanks for the comment, Tiel. To answer your question, the students have to take the class to earn their associate's degree. Sometimes they want to take it, sometimes they don't.

PWADJ, thank you so much!!! I'm glad you liked the poem so much. :)

twilightspider said...

I'm with Poet on this - connection through learning, through cutting - you've wrapped it all up in such a pleasing poetic package. The final lines are the perfect punctuation.

(that was altogether too much alliteration, but it was accidental!)

Crafty Green Poet said...

Not an easy poem for a vegetarian to read! The ending is wonderful though, whatever your dietary preferences ....

megan said...

good job of creating an image...i could see it the whole way through...the colors, the students slouching in their chairs. Really like the metaphor of carving away the lesser parts to leave the best behind.

Jessica said...

twillightspider -- I like the alliteration... thanks for the compliment.

CGP -- Thanks for the comment. I know the images are a little gruesome for the vegetarians. It's not a good place to work if you worry about animals. :)

Megan, thank you for stopping by. I glad you liked the poem!