» Poetry

What We Ate

Not loin chops cooked Moroccan style,

 palm-sized, presented like gifts

simmering with harrisa-spiked hummus,

 nor the shoulder placed atop a small knoll

of onions and peppers, flavor brimming

 in each slashed sinew, but the heart,

that muscle which, to me, still seems untouchable

 in the hierarchy of organs. In French curry

we ate what once beat in the smooth body

 of the lamb, the taste of iron coiled

around our tongues like a rope swing,

 the meat perfectly tender to chew

on a dilemma: better to waste nothing

 or keep one thing sacred, worshipped

as we do our own ventricles?

 And as we swallowed I did not think

of the lamb force-fed with a stomach tube

 in a barn in North Georgia, its legs wobbly

on an altar of hay, but a hundred other hearts—

 Nefertiti’s pulsing wildly for the sun god Aten,

Napoleon’s stopped briefly at Waterloo,

 and those closer, more real—

my mother’s stepped on like an amaryllis

 in a field swollen with weeds, my brother’s

heart, desires I’ll never know, humming

 like a complex engine, its pistons

clogging with blood, and so forgive me,

 little ounce of lamb, for taking

your heart on a piece of jagged

 ciabbata, and when I say I forced you down

with water, believe me when I tell you

 I took only the slightest pleasure

and that I did not clean my plate.


Joshua Martin

Joshua Martin is a PhD student in Creative Writing at Georgia State University, where he teaches Composition. He has published work (or has work forthcoming) in Tupelo Quarterly, Salamander, Nashville Review, Raleigh Review, Tar River Poetry, The Cortland Review, Louisiana Literature, and elsewhere.