Biting My TongueHenry Thoreau said eating meat
disagreed with his imagination,
then he saw a groundhog in his beanfield
and imagined rending it with his teeth.
So when my veggie quesadilla arrived
and my coworker said, “Where’s
the pork chop?” I pictured my teeth
at his throat. Then, I smiled. I did not say,
“Still on the pig, thanks to me.”
Through forty-five years I have heard
many self-protective jabs and answered
“Why?” as patiently as any parent
of a three-year-old. I envisioned saying,
“If you like chewing the greasy, charred
flesh of a dead animal that lived in a pen
the size of your bathtub, and whose
contributions to global warming
and food insecurity are well known,
bon appétit.” Thankful for choices,
I said, “If they bring me a pork chop,
I will happily give it to you, my friend.”
A ToastI learned a man who’d persecuted me
Is dead. The crime, once old and stowed away,
Returned so fresh, it’s all that I can see:
His grinning face and bullet eyes, all day.
He was my boss, of course; the persecutors
Always are. What mutant protein or loss
Of chemical brain balance makes traitors
Of these men, turned against the human race?
There was a time I fantasized I’d cut
His throat and laugh with wonder when the blood
Ran red across his office floor, my doubt
Had grown so strong. Irrelevant now. What good
Could come of gloating at his death? I think
There must be some good, so I hoist this drink.
“I never killed anybody, but I often read
an obituary notice with great satisfaction.”
— Clarence Darrow
a hell. Older, they began to die,
the youngest first, of stomach cancer.
I did not wince to contemplate
his pain. Then the middle one, alone,
unfound until the neighbors smelled him.
A surprise, that he could have
a heart attack. Now the third, grown
very old, has died, but I do not savor
his demise: Because some fellow sufferers
are also under clay, and I grow
nearer to our common fate, I fold down
the obits and raise my juice,
glad to start another working day.
Eric Weil lives in Raleigh, NC. He is glad to have survived a career in education and is now retired. Volunteerism is so much more pleasant than work! Journals ranging from American Scholar to Poetry, from Dead Mule to Sow’s Ear, and from Main Street Rag to Silk Road have published his poems. New poems are forthcoming in Kakalak 2022, North Carolina Literary Review (online), and Prime Number. He has three chapbooks: A Horse at the Hirshhorn, Returning from Mars, and Ten Years In. He’s willing to trade titles with other poets: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also a playwright, Eric has had one-act plays on stages in Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Texas, Arizona, and Minnesota, as well as in North Carolina. He likes to hike with his wife of 43 years, and he’s happy that his grandkids are still young enough to enjoy playing at Grandma & Grandpa’s house.
Banner Art: Bright Urban Graveyard/ Savage Light a visual poem by Robert Frede Kenter. Twitter: @frede_kenter