Monogamy and the Big Beef

October 4, 2010

Marriage is not an easy table
to keep set; the cloth keeps slipping,
plates and glasses cracking—

once, a napkin stitched with daisies
blew through an open window
into the hands of a neighbor down the street.

My lover’s eyes were green fire;
his wife was away, so I filled the room with lilacs.
We toasted each season with champagne

until my husband brought half a cow
in the back of his old Ford pickup
from a slaughterhouse in Boston,

pored over charts,
dividing chest from cow thigh
neatly as a pattern for a party suit,

brought his bucksaw from the cellar,
cut and ground the meat
with watchful, tender hands.

It would be a savory—
scented winter, he promised
roasts, stews tempered with cognac.

I labeled the packages:
short ribs, flank, eye of round,
stacked the beef against the freezer wall
like sod for a prairie home.