“Tenderness” by Chris Kaiser

Chris Kaiser


The manager I’m shadowing tosses
five steaming slices of fresh cut prime rib
in the trash, as calmly as tech bosses
laying off 10,000 workers at a clip.
I know he’s memorized the thick binder
of exacting rules. He wants to rule the world.
His flopped ears and underbite, though, reminders,
he’s more shih tzu than snarling rottweiler.
“Nine ounces,” he says, tossing the first slice.
Each slice thereafter thrown on the ‘ounce’ cue.
“Not ten. Not eight. But nine. To be precise.”
His eyes lock with mine, smug with his coup.
I imagine his sweet mother ignoring
his skinned cats and other such cruel whoring.
I then recalled helping some elderly.
To say they reeked would be impolite.
No cats, but cat food, a peculiarity.
“It almost tastes like tuna, ain’t that right?”
I recalled seeing handwritten entries
in rural homes to casserole squirrel.
Dogless men bird-dogging squirrels up trees,
hoping buckshot only went subdermal.
The manager walks away, droning on:
“Nine ounces of medium-rare beef,
au jus, baked potato, sauteed onion,
steak knife, dessert fork, lucky cloverleaf …”
I think, Best to parboil squirrel, large size,
with a glug of vinegar to tenderize.

from Poets Respond
January 22, 2023


Chris Kaiser: “When I heard a piece on NPR’s Think about food waste, I remembered an incident that happened to me when I thought I’d want to pursue restaurant management. It also jogged my memory of times I’ve come face to face with people devising creative ways to assuage their hunger when their income is below the poverty line.”

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