Today's poem is by Jennifer Maier


Tonight across America, in the swank salons
of Midtown matriarchs, in the steaming kitchens
of the Great Plains, people are gathering

to break the forked clavicles of domestic fowl.
The winner gets the wish, as we all know—
but from whom? Not the bird, surely,

who probably still bears a grudge, or Jesus,
that stray bachelor who turns up year after year.
More likely some stone-faced, runic deity,

and this, his last grave office. Solemn, invisible,
he waits by the fire, dismayed that the squalling
two-year-old in the small, high throne shall not

be sacrificed for the good of all, yet pleased
that the contest lives on, with its instrument
so little changed: two arms, joined

like a compass; the Wish sparking in the field
of its circumference, waiting for the snap.
From age to circling age we've played—

Shirts against Bones, opponents in this game
whose odds our side's forgotten, though the stakes
haven't changed: long life and the wolf at bay.

And how lucky we are to have won this round,
to be here waiting for pie, while the loser
has to be the bone, cramped in some marble

vault, or nowhere at all—a skein of ashes
unspooled in the air. And what wouldn't he give
to be here among us, bored and sated,

watching the candle grow short in its silver cup,
and the dog, tracing her gentle arc under the table,
moving from hand to hand.

Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Maier All rights reserved
from Now, Now
University of Pittsburgh Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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