Chicken Bones

By | 1 June 2022

My widowed mother at lunch
plucks filaments of flesh
from near-naked chicken bones.
She splinters each twig-leg,
vacuums the slurry of marrow:
They used to hit me.
Με χτύπησαν. Me Htipisan,

masticates a small voice
I’ve never heard before.

She hunches over the fowl’s remains,
rounded shoulders, arms over breasts
ball into a child’s shield.
Her head twitches like a sparrow’s;
left, right, her brown eyes flick up, flick down;
her plastic cataract lenses flash
the phantom of a chthonic hunger;

They used to hit me. Με χτύπησαν. Me Htipisan.
When I went to rock the baby, during the war, they hit me.
They didn’t give me much to eat. I starved,

mewls this babyish voice again,
now from the back seat of my car,
as I chauffeur her from doctor to doctor.

My knuckles whiten on the wheel
like a mottled backbone,
like the mountain range
that splits her island – Karpathos,
as this famishment spools
a spillage of secrets
so late in life,
like the small, silent histories
of unaccompanied minors,
refugees and war infants;
countless children.

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