Turkey Cutlet Night – Valerie Hunter

Everyone else has finished
and left the table,
gotten on with their lives,
but Connor has fallen
into the black hole
that is turkey cutlet night;
he is stuck to his chair
until he finishes,
or dies,
or has to go to bed,
whichever comes first.

He is alone with the enemy,
and no plan of attack.
His plate is an ominous map:
the potatoes gone, the peas
mashed down to a green sludge,
and the turkey cutlet
a dominant warzone
covered in breadcrumbs dry as dust,
one tiny end gone,
though it hadn’t felt tiny
when it was in Connor’s mouth.
Then it was an enormous chewy wad
threatening to strangle him,
and required half a glass of milk
to wash it down.

He tries to pretend
it’s some other night,
fish sticks, maybe,
or meat loaf,
something easily endured.
He tries to pretend
he is something else entirely,
a robot,
who doesn’t need food,
or a goat,
who will eat anything—
he pictures himself
shoveling turkey cutlet
into his mouth at warp speed,
but he is not a goat,
and even the thought
makes him gag.

At long last,
Mom comes in
and sends Connor to bed,
shaking her head
at his defeat.
He goes,
his stomach hollow
and his head filled
with dreams of a future
when he can make
his own meals,
all of them
a delight to his tongue,
without a turkey cutlet in sight.

Valerie Hunter worked at her college library as an undergrad, where she occasionally read the new acquisitions when she should have been shelving. She now teaches high school English and maintains a classroom library with a sadly low circulation rate. Her poems have appeared in publications including Wizards in Space, Room Magazine, and Last Girls Club.

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