My mother can strip the meat off any chicken bone,
leave nothing but a hinge, no trace of ligament
nor evidence that what she pinches between
her teeth once supported an entire architecture
of feather and seed. She does not stop there,
can split the bone too. Suck the marrow,
the sweetest part. This is how she loves:
offers my father a taste until he too is sharpened
by her appetites. How do they know
when to stop, when the bone has nothing
left to give? My family says I do not know
the proper way to finish a meal, that I leave
too much for others to reclaim, treat them
as if they come laced with a dark poison.
I have seen my mother take from my plate
every discarded knot of muscle and make them
into a rosary. Here is where the ghosts
take root, where the spirit composes itself,
the blood assembling in places light
is the most absent. I watch my mother
work the last scraps, shape her mouth
into something so nimble it can make ribbons
from the smallest nerve before breaking it.
Albert Abonado is the Director of Adult Programs at Writers & Books. He is the editor of The Bakery. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in issues of Fourteen Hills, New Ohio Review, Phantom Limb, Pleiades, Sixth Finch, and others. He lives with his wife in Rochester, NY.