Today's poem is by Sharon Dolin

To the Family of the Man We Ate 130 Years Ago
Nabutautau, Fiji

We are sorry, but when your kinsman, the reverend,
touched the head of our chief
      what else could we do?
The head you must know is the crown
where the spirit floats and
      his hand, which had touched so many
unclean things—his wife's body
with its many fluids and folds, his own
      body, a chicken's wing, even
patted a dog's back with it and then
he raised it to our chieftain's
      head to remove a wooden half
a fishbone—comb, he called it,
after he had shown him one gliding
      through his own hair—well—in
the rain we anointed him with oils
said our blessings and cooked him
      and ate him. His boots—we'd never
seen such things before—we cooked with bele
similar to your spinach but they were
      too tough. See here, we've kept them
for almost 130 years and now return them to you.
Now we offer you many whale's teeth—one
      for each year his spirit has been
wandering in our bellies—may he swim
to shore and stay with you.
      And may you lift this curse from us
that has kept us hungry all these years
with little outside light and very
      matted hair.

Copyright © 2008 Sharon Dolin All rights reserved
from Burn and Dodge
University of Pittsburgh Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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