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Birthday Celebration, Carl’s Chop House, Detroit

ISSUE:  Summer 1987
for Marcella Desy

The waiters there wear tuxedos and have hushed
attitudes, as if feeding
were a formal affair, something
we do once a year that needs exactitude and
supervision. August 21, the table formally
arranged, my mother at the head.
“I’m eighty today,” she announces
and we clap and clank our glasses
with our knives.
             She looks so small
cutting her thick lamb chops—the thin
architecture of her hands showing through
paper skin—excising the meat neatly,
chewing, satisfying desire, being there,
wholly, with the family busy with their meat,
and the silverware tinkling and flashing
in the artificial light. Outside, dark now,
and everything moving—stars, moon, clouds,
wind and cars. We go single file toward
the door, finished with the sharp, curved bones
of animals left on our plates. We almost
feel the earth move as we step into
the night, the leaves spangled silver
as the light breeze takes them and moves on.


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