Thursday, April 07, 2011

National Poetry Month: Kindergarten at the Transylvania Flavour Restaurant

Kindergarten at the Transylvania Flavor Restaurant
by Fiona Lam

My son interrogates me.
A piece of schnitzel at lunch leads to
the location of Transylvania, next
the Austro-Hungarian empire,
the origins of World War I, then World War II,
the bombing of Pearl Harbor,
and of course, the Atomic Bomb.
In fifteen minutes, breaded chicken
leads to civilian massacre.

Thank goodness
for Sachertorte.

I am a deficient encyclopedia.
I watch him savour his cake and recall
that Britannica set, twelve years out of date,
in its own special bookcase
that my mother bought for $100,
persuaded by the salesman
to give her children the world.
Tiny lines of knowledge gleaned
from anonymous minds teemed
on gold-edged pages bound
between heavy cream covers.

The atlas mapped our existence,
our galaxy, solar system,
layers of civilization marked
by the occasional mini pyramid or coliseum.
How far we'd come. A century per inch
And then the clouds.

I always snuck off with the "anatomy" volume.
Human archeology on transparent pages.
The skin of a naked Adam, a naked Eve,
Next, their striated muscles. The webs
of blood and nerve underneath, then organs
gray brain, pink lung, snaking
sausage of intestines, finally
the ultimate core of bone.
What I sought again and again,
as was sought long ago
in cadavers--by scientists, artists,
da Vinci, as if one could excavate
to discover the architect through
architecture. How it happened

that I am. Here. Eating schnitzel, cake
with my son who was created from my body
and his father's, through our ancestors'--
an Australian navigator routing his plane
over the Pacific to a dance in Winnipeg,
a girl singing her grief in a Saigon teahouse
to a fortune-teller's son, to others
through siege and war, and all the interstices.
I am learning, as my son is learning.
Gathering evidence, as we make it.

All the poems this week have been from the wonderful anthology, Not a Muse: The Inner Lives of Women, a World Poetry Anthology, edited by Kate Rogers and Viki Holmes

Book Provided by... the publisher, for review consideration.

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