An Argument In The Kitchen

Bush has bombed Iraq;
I’m in hot water
up to my elbows, stagnant
words won’t come.
The kitchen hisses,
my mother’s dinner steams
behind me, my mother struggles
to keep peace.
I chop, chop, chop
celery, carrots, lettuce,
I toss it all in a big bowl,
it’s all mixed up
I am arguing with my family,
I am arguing with my father
had I ever heard of Hitler?
Saddam is a madman —
I am 14 again,
I don’t belong here.
The kitchen hisses,
my mother’s dinner steams
behind me, yellow ribbon fever is everywhere;
the faces around the table
support our troops — don’t you
support our troops?
I struggle to wash clean
the feelings of 14
when I cut school to march against the war, the Viet Nam
I just know it’s wrong —
were the only words I stammered, in the principal’s office
words failed me, words wouldn’t come. I just know
it’s wrong.

I was 14, not as smart as a president,
or the adults who believed him.

I am arguing with my father
I am arguing with my family
It’s all wrong
but it’s all right
it’s just like old times,
except I am 35 and still trying
to use words, to find the right words to bridge
The Gulf;
why have words failed us?
Oh, let’s sit down to dinner, let’s not talk
about this war
my mother says; my dinner’s getting cold,
I’ve worked all day to make this meal for you,
it’s beautiful, I want you all to eat
in peace.
Across the table, across the gulf,
a chasm of blood –
there are bad feelings, hurts stirred up beyond all reckoning or settling,
making peace is just too hard.
Why is forgiveness so impossible?
This gulf is unbridgeable
for an old kind of blood bond that exists, and the food passed
around the table — we are all swallowing hard, struggling
to regain some common ground, something we can all say
we love.
Yes, the potatoes
are just right; the meat is perfect.
And for dessert — surprise!
Your sister’s brought your favorite chocolate cake!
Too soon or way too late the meal is finished — I am leaving,
the drive home will be long.
I hug my mother, graze my father’s cheek;
then from some impulse
long buried at the bottom of that gulf between us,
I change my mind —
I embrace my father.
The drive home is long.
Outside, the January stars are pinpoints; the night is cold, insufferable,