Library of Congress

Poetry and Literature

The Library of Congress > Poetry & Literature> Poet Laureate > Past Poet Laureate Projects > Poetry 180 > Full List of Poems > Poem 119
{ site_name: 'Poetry', subscribe_url:'/share/sites/library-of-congress/poetry.php' }

Back to Full List of 180 Poems


The man who stands above the bird, his knife
Sharp as a Turkish scimitar, first removes
A thigh and leg, half the support
On which the turkey used to stand. This
Leg and thigh he sets on an extra
Plate. All his weight now on 
One leg, he lunges for the wing, the wing
On the same side of the bird from which
He has just removed the leg and thigh.
He frees the wing enough to expose
The breast, the wing not severed but
Collapsed down to the platter. One hand
Holding the fork, piercing the turkey
Anywhere, he now begins to slice the breast,
Afflicted by small pains in his chest,
A kind of heartburn for which there is no 
Cure. He serves the hostess breast, her 
Own breast rising and falling. And so on,
Till all the guests are served, the turkey
Now a wreck, the carver exhausted, a
Mere carcass of his former self. Everyone
Says thanks to the turkey carver and begins
To eat, thankful for the cold turkey
And the Republic for which it stands.

—Mac Hammond

from Mappamundi: New and Selected Poems, 1989
Bellevue Press

Copyright 1989 by Mac Hammond.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Bellevue Press from Mappamundi: New and Selected Poems. Copyright 1989 by Mac Hammond. For further permissions information, contact Katka Hammond, [email protected].

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Mac Hammond (1926-1997) was a poet, a professor emeritus of English, and the director of the graduate program in creative writing at the university of New York at Buffalo. Hammond is the author of four poetry collections, including Mappamundi: New and Selected Poems (Bellevue Press, 1989). Hammond died in 1997.

Learn more about Mac Hammond at Poetry Hunter.