“Blue Plate Special” by Edison Jennings

Edison Jennings


Pork chops, potatoes, beans, gravy, and grief,
seasoned to taste and shared by the dead girl’s
father and boyfriend, the table talk sparse,
the dead girl not much mentioned, especially
the dead part, or how she dumped the boyfriend
a week before she died. The boyfriend drank beer,
the father, iced tea. The boyfriend had plans,
the father did not. The brother came late
and skipped dinner (not hungry, he said),
went upstairs and cried (they seemed not to hear).
Then he came back and cleaned up his plate.
Then they all had coffee, ice cream, and pie.
Then they looked through a box of old photos
and then said goodbye, over and over again.

from Rattle #38, Winter 2012

[download audio]


Edison Jennings: “Though my relationship with poetry is, as they say, complicated, its origin is simple enough: Mr. James Harrington’s seventh grade English class. We were reading Julius Caesar, and my attention perked up when we got to Act III, Scene 1, the assassination scene. But what really hooked me was when Brutus and Cassius leave Marc Antony alone with Caesar’s mangled body and Antony asks the corpse to forgive him: ‘O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth …’ The description of the mangled corpse as a ‘bleeding piece of earth’ floored me, but when Antony addresses the gory knife wounds as ‘ruby lips’ that ‘beg the voice and utterance of [his] tongue,’ prompting him to ‘prophesy’ war and destruction, well, that was my first experience with the soul jarring impact of great poetry. By the time the school year was over, I had decided that maybe I wanted to be a teacher and a poet instead of a Cy Young Award winning pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles.”

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