Two Poems by Tamara Madison

One Thanksgiving

My daughter, I know,
will not be coming
all the way from school
in New York. Then my son
says he’ll spend the day
with his girlfriend’s folks;
he can’t make
the long drive down
for our favorite holiday.

Ah, I say to myself.
They hurt you
when they enter this world;
they hurt you again
as they leave your side.

I take my solitary self in hand,
invite some lonely friends and plan.
So strange, without my daughter’s
kitchen skills, my boy’s
toasts and cheer and help.
I make the meal myself this time;
I even make the pies.

The friends arrive,
the wine is opened;
we gather around
the golden bird,
beets glistening on a bed
of garlic-studded greens,
the cranberry sauce
I always make
with marmalade
and lemon zest.

The moment I set
the last dish down,
the front door opens
and my lad walks in,
with his love on his arm.
My astonished face,
my friends will tell me later:
the embodiment of Thanksgiving.

*

Staying With My Sister

My sister’s husband says they can’t
go out to dinner anymore — there’s nothing
to talk about. He asks me to stay with her
while he goes to a conference.
I am glad for the change of scene
and to be with my big sister who has shown me
so much love all my life. I take her
to a restaurant — there’s plenty to talk about:
the menu, other diners, our parents.

My sister used to love to cook.
Now I’m the one making meals.
She wants to help, asks if she should
peel the garlic. Sure, I tell her, not thinking
as her husband might, of the perils
of the paring knife. I busy myself
with the rest of the meal. When I turn back,
I see she has peeled both whole knobs:
the cloves cluster like a trove of pearls.

*
Tamara Madison is the author of the chapbook “The Belly Remembers”, and two full-length volumes of poetry, “Wild Domestic” and “Moraine”, all published by Pearl Editions. Her work has appeared in Chiron Review, the Worcester Review, A Year of Being Here, Nerve Cowboy, the Writer’s Almanac and many other publications. A swimmer, dog lover and native of the southern California desert, she has recently retired from teaching English and French in a Los Angeles high school. Read more about her at tamaramadisonpoetry.com.

This Late Thanks by Hayden Saunier

This Late Thanks

Hickory nuts shake down from shagbarks
onto blacktop, their leather cases cracked

at the seams, releasing the dense center
that as a child, I’d try to bust open

for food with a hammer against stone.
It never worked out. My first careful blows

revealed an intricate chambered hardness
that clenched the meat too tightly for my fingers

to pick out so I’d bring the hammer down
hard as Thor, which smashed the halves to mush

shot through with broken shell, impossible
to eat. Sometimes, even a truck can’t bust

a hickory nut’s core. Today, they drop
and settle atop asphalt, or skitter

into ditches to soften and take root,
get storm-washed into creeks to rot, decay,

go round again. For years, I thought that if
I really tried, I could discover where

the sweet spot lives between slow patient time
and swift obliteration— the perfect

angle, words, or pressure point to crack,
precisely to the right degree, the small

hard architectures held so tight inside—
but no such place. Instead, I have this late

and quiet thanks for fate or happenstance
or maybe even grace, that any one of us

has fallen, broken just enough,
onto an earth, or into hands, that give.

*

Hayden Saunier is the author of five books of poetry, including A Cartography of Home, published in 2021. Awards include the Pablo Neruda Prize, Rattle Poetry Prize, Gell Poetry Award, Keystone Prize, and a dozen Pushcart Prize nominations. She directs No River Twice (poetry + improvisation), an interactive, audience-driven poetry reading/performance. More at http://www.haydensaunier.com.