You could’ve said no, but you didn’t
when I asked you to heft that melon,
sagging like an ancient breast
lying in the cold drawer

of the fridge, walk it to the big green
bin on the driveway where leaves
and lawn clippings mingled with
droopy daffodils so bright and

cheerful days earlier, too soon
limp and spent—all the dying things
in one dark, pungent place
filled with the smell of rot. And

because you loved me, because you
knew I’d shudder to open that lid,
you did. Over your shoulder I detected
resignation in the iron twitch

of your cheek as you palmed
the softening fruit, placing your
thumb as gently as you once did
on the laces of a baseball before

you pitched it, avoiding the melon’s
crusty bit, then walking it outside
like a wounded bird in your hands.
From the kitchen window I watched

you approach the bin, pause,
open it with an elbow and execute
an elegant slam dunk. I felt the
plummeting thud as I recalled

all the dead things you’d removed
from our lives—what the cats dragged
in, what died on the lawn, sometimes
intact blue jays fallen off their perch—

and I wondered how you’d toughened,
seemingly untouched by loss after loss,
your heart taking the beating. I recalled
stories of stampedes in your family’s

turkey barns, frantic feathered balls
trying to escape marauding skunks,
many of them failing, you and your
brothers, just boys, tasked with

shooting the intruders, burying
the corpses of young poults—
dumbest things on two feet, you’d
say—my heart hurting for all of you.

You’d been close to death all
your life, while I ran from it.
Until the day I got the call from
a coroner in another county

asking if I was your wife, if I’d come
to the house you lived in alone,
and I did, walking into your
unexpected departure, sitting

with you one last time—me cross-legged
on the floor, cradling your porcelain
foot in my lap, looking at your sagging
face, me cheek to jowl with what

I’d long feared—you, utterly gone,
two strangers outside the front door,
black zippered bag in their hands,

(Photo / University of New Hampshire Extension)

About janishaag

Writer, writing coach, editor
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2 Responses to Turkeys

  1. Great post
    This is a heartwarming and beautifully written piece. It highlights the sacrifices and selfless acts of love we do for those we care about. I wondered, how did the author manage to convey such emotions and make the story flow seamlessly?

  2. Mary Ann Carrasco says:

    Jan, this is so touching and real to me. I cried when I read it. As you know, I also got the call from a coroner in another county so I can relate. But more than that, you have written this so well….describing the love and the loss. This piece is so special. Thank you for sharing it. Mary Ann

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