Friday, July 23, 2010

An Ordinary Lunch

as he stares into the sky there are
twice as many stars as usual.
“The Two-Headed Calf”—Laura Gilpin

Maura constructed a church of tinker toys
and genuflected each morning before class

David walked backwards, tracking
the wall with his fingertips

Carl drew airplanes on paper,
the underside of tables and his arms

Joe collected tokens in his apron,
one for every three minutes he didn’t bite

Tracy elected to remain mute
locked in her own silence

Wendy watched her hands
weave patterns in the air

Samantha repeated whatever she heard
but had no words of her own

We sat at assigned places for lunch,
seven eight year olds and three staff

It’s quiet for a moment, then
Maura laughs, a high pitched squeal
David claps his hands, balances on two chair legs
Carl makes the sound of a plane taking off
Joe counts his tokens
Tracy rolls her head
Wendy moves the air with her hands
Samantha waits to hear someone’s words

It’s Joe’s turn to lead the prayer

Let’s fold our hands
Let’s bow our heads
Let's give thanks for our food

Their voices join,
not always with words
Some sign in the air,
A few tap a melody,
A plane flies overhead
Samantha's echo —a fugue
David adds a few words
his family recites before they eat
Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu...

Tracy’s mother baked chocolate chip cookies
and Tracy dances around and around the table
handing out her cookies like a sacred offering

Crumbs spread across the table, under chairs
We talk about cookies
Round cookies
Cookies with holes
Even cookies shaped like airplanes

Linda Watskin ©2010
Big Tent Poetry
Listen to the poem: "The Two-Headed Calf"
read by poet Laura Treacy Bentley


  1. I know the Two-headed Calf! The first time I read it I wept. It was lambing season and I worked with the neighbor's "bum" lambs. Bums are lambs whose mothers die or don't want them. It is so sad and beautiful at the same time.

    After I wrote that I read your piece. Linda, My daughter has a severe to profound hearing loss. You've described the classrooms she learned and loved in during her elementary years. I am touched in a deep place.

    Okay, now I just listened to the reading of the poem, reread your piece, and have tears in my eyes. Bless you for this post today.

  2. There is wonder in everything, Linda.

  3. Like Brenda . . . tears in my eyes. Beautiful. You brought me to that classroom and to the sound and sensation of "Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu..."

  4. Had never heard The Two-Headed Calf before. And you poem is a wonder-filled response to it. Thank you for sharing both of them with all of us today,they have a profound effect together.


  5. This piece reaches deep and hangs on. A wonderful and provocative read. Thank you!

  6. This is a wonderful poem. I loved it.

  7. your description of the children is terrific! i love this one especially:

    Carl drew airplanes on paper,
    the underside of tables and his arms

    and enjoyed how planes kept recurring.

  8. Wonderful poem. Love the title and how your poem becomes the opposite of ordinary.

    Thanks for including my reading of "The Two-Headed Calf."


  9. I too love the descriptive quality of the piece. Really humanizes these children people sometimes want to overlook - it makes us too uncomfortable, perhaps, with ourselves - but you bring out their beauty.