Matthew Lippman
American Chew

For a long time I wanted to be a man who worked 
in a slaughterhouse 
with the big axe and the wide knives.  
I wanted to be a man who pushed the steer in as a steer 
then hauled it out 
as a T-bone, a rack of ribs, 
a half a pound of ground beef.  
These were the days when I lived in the city and hated the line of supermarkets 
that ran up and down Dean
with the cockroach-infested aisles.  
How would it have been to kill my own food
in the meatpacking mission south of 14th?
To smell the blood, taste the fat, finger the guts? 
Better yet, run through the hills of Flatbush and Canarsie
with spears, 
bows and arrows
to crouch in the bush 
and pounce.  
I don’t know how those Native Americans, those wide-eyed 
Davy Crockett-type trappers did it.  
I read once that if you knew your food before you killed it,
it sang to you in the belly.  
Now, I can’t even imagine putting a seed in the earth.  
I can’t fathom a day when I might cast a line into the Wallkill River 
to pull me out a rainbow trout, filet the sucker, toss it over an open grill
and chow.  
Now, I love the supermarket, 
The Whole Foods with its Haitian cashiers and bad-ass Mexicans 
who work the prepared food counter.  
I put my face into the cheese counter and inhale, 
take lion breaths, like I was at yoga
with all those ferocious Newton ladies in their hot spandex and cleanly shaved armpits.  
The Whole Foods destroys my manhood or any desire I might have ever had 
to be that kind of butcher, that baker, that sweet dick willy wagoneer.  
It cuts me off at the stomach, opens me up and pours in 
the fair trade organic, 
the macrobiotic basmati, 
the grass-fed rib eye that I should have slaughtered myself 
if I had only the muscle and wasn’t so goddamn scared.  
Later, at my picnic table— 
the steak perfectly marinated—
it occurs to me that my whole country 
has been killed by my Whole Foods 
and that there is nothing whole 
about a stalk of broccoli shipped in from Bali 
even though it has that beautiful purple sticker which reads, 
bio dynamic. 
So, I make my lion breaths deep and low, 
smile at the bloody cut 
then chew my American chew, quick, fast, 
full of buffoonery, 
sloppy with the happy fat.

Found In Volume 41, No. 06
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Matthew Lippman
About the Author

Matthew Lippman is the author of Salami JewMonkey Bars, and The New Year of Yellow, which won the Kathryn A. Morton Poetry Prize.