The turkey is a curious bird
And there’s a tale quite often heard
Of how this hapless, weak birdbrain
Looks up, agape, and drowns in rain.
But that is really just a myth
To entertain the gullible with.

In fact his monofocal eye
Must look sideways at the sky
Not up…and he might as easily drown
In puddles, failing to look down.
Poor thing can’t fly, can barely walk,
And gobble-gobble is his talk.

The ostentation of his tail
And puffed-out chest will surely fail
To keep him swaggeringly proud
If there’s a noise, and it is loud.
Then he is spooked, suddenly tense
And runs to cower by the fence.

American fowl of colonial fame
That Benjamin Franklin wanted to name
Federal symbol, national bird—
Turkey? Ridiculous! Turkey? Absurd!
Yet, in a way, it has almost come true–
Not on The Seal, but on the menu.

When Thanksgiving comes, it’s almost a law
Though steak lovers groan and vegans say “pshaw!”
That turkey be served as pre-eminent meat
Above the plenty of plenty to eat.
Crackling, drumstick, breast and wing
This one day a year, turkey is king.
copyright Cynthia Jobin 2014

80 responses »

    • It’s not one of my favorite things to eat…I’d rather watch it go about it’s silliness… but turkey dinner is inevitable at our Thanksgiving tables…so it deserves a verse or two. I’m glad it made you smile, Karen.

  1. I have never eaten a turkey. [Does this make me a turkey virgin?] And the naming of the turkey is an annual US rite I have never understood – though I think you have given me a small clue as to its origin in this delightful ode to the main dish of American Thanksgiving. Have a Happy Thanksgiving Day Cynthia!

    • One could do worse than to be a turkey virgin! A really silly tradition we have each year is for the President of the US to pardon a turkey or two, (not that they did anything wrong except to be born as a turkey) so that they are not sacrificed to the feast. Explaining or justifying cultural traditions may be a losing enterprise, methinks. Thank you for your good wishes, Pauline!

        • Indeed we do.

          And the day after Thanks giving is known as Black Friday….sounds ominous but it really refers to the beginning of the Christmas shopping season when everyone rushes out for special deals so irresistible that everyone will spend, spend, spend, and put the merchants’ accounts “in the black” before the end of the year. A traditional stampede to be avoided unless one is in love with shopping and bargains. 🙂

    • …or dictionaries, or dromedaries, or mercenaries…as usual, Prospero, when I receive your comment, the mind boggles. Actually, cranberry sauce is one of my favorite things, but it probably deserves its own dedicated poem. Something to think about for the future.

      • Also this: I think Benjamin Franklin was hit too many times by lightning to be completely cogent on the subject of flightless birds.

          • Puisque vous aimez les canneberge, voici des suggestions pour votre prochain poème:

            -Ode to a Nightingale named Cranberry (Tennessee Williams would have loved this one)
            -Ode to a Cranberry (I find this a little sour,literally, metaphorically, dromedarically, mercenarily–see next suggestion)
            -Ode to the sugar one adds to the humble cranberry to make the bleeding thing edible (a little long, but spot on)

            Or, and this requires some work:
            -Ode on a Grecian Cranberry

            This is assuming that said cranberry is in fact Grecian (there is some debate about this) and that one could depict graphic Freudian fantasies (not for family viewing) on the berry. Still, I think you could make this one work, Cynthia. Just dedicate the poem to anyone other than me and I will content myself in knowing–did I mention anonymously?–that I actually gave you the idea.

            • You have presented me here, with an embarrassment of riches…

              Because i am unfamiliar with that particular avian species, a Nightingale named Cranberry is out, though I do like the thought of a cranberry hoping “to cease upon the midnight with no pain.”

              The Cranberry ode without sugar, and the sugar Ode about itself seem somehow banal.

              This leaves,of course, the Ode on a Grecian Cranberry, which would indeed require work. Off the top of my head, I don’t even know if they have cranberries in Greece. Maybe I should just stick with New England cranberries which I do know quite well. I once worked in the cranberry bogs of Massachusetts, and then in the factory, separating the ones that bounced from the ones that did not.

              Et je t’assure que si un jour je composerai quelques vers au sujet des canneberges c’est à toi que je vais dédier l’oeuvre—toi qui est le génie et l’inspiration de cette idée. Merci, mon ami!

              • Notwithstanding the humble, Hellenic origins of the cranberry, consider if you will my love of e.e.cummings: I carry your cranberries with me. Though you may prefer a Dickinsonian allusion–I Cannot Live Without You, Dear Cranberry. That’s pretty nice and may even win you a major prize at a posh poetry contest or, alternatively, first dibs on an old, rusted barbecue at a garage sale.

                • Indeed, love poetry is considered poetry par excellence worldwide, right up there with poetry about death. I have never been able to see poetry as competitive sport, however. Contests—mostly among the academic, the shysters and the naïve, are more preposterous than posh, I fear, dear Prospero. But thank you for the suggestions …”I carry your heart in my heart”…even as we both know that poetry lives in the garage, with that rusted barbecue.

  2. ….I think the esteem in coops and yards across your fair land just went up several notches–and chests have puffed-up ever more thanks to this worthy praise for a worthy creature. Allow some small correction as far as the turkeys in your New England forests are concerned. They are very adept and deft flyers, able to navigate between stands of trees diving and diverting–just ask a poor hunter like my father when living in Vermont. He’d lament how in deer season all he saw were turkeys flying around, and in turkey season, deer waltzing about. However, that said, the domesticated turkey is a whole different animal, as befits your wonderfully-rhymed description to the letter. HAPPY THANKSGIVING my dear. (Up here across the line, we had ours mid-October, with Raul and I having an 8 lb. $9 utility bird, sans a wing, but then, it’s all about the stuffing, isn’t it?)

    • You are so right, Lance. The wild turkey is like a whole different bird from the ones we now find in the supermarket. They do fly, as I’ve been told by hunters in my own family, though not very high. Let’s say they don’t soar like the eagle. I would probably vote with you and Raul for the good deal on a wingless bird…it is so truly all about the stuffing….and the gravy, of course, which covers a multitude of sins. In truth, the holiday will come and go without my own personal excitement involved, but I thank you so much for your good wishes!

  3. We, in the vasty north, have already eaten the annual flipping bird. I am NOT a fan, having grown up with a tradition of rendering the bird to something close to dust. And it is WAY too much work. Your poem, not a turkey, is deliciously edible.

    • You jiggle some funny memories, Susanne.

      How often the turkey is dry as dust, because someone got carried away with the aperitifs and forgot to time it correctly as it roasted in the oven. And all the work to get the flipping side dishes co-ordinated, and the herculean task of trying to keep everything warm/hot until it landed on the table.

      The year my mother was dying, I took charge of the feast—father and brothers being basically useless—and my funniest memory is that we couldn’t find the really good tablecloth to set the table. I promptly relegated an immaculately clean, nicely ironed bedsheet into use, and it was the talk of the group ever after….”.remember when you used a sheet for a tablecloth?” Reminded me of why I left home at an early age…..to explore my conviction that a length of cloth is only whatever you make of it…

      • The only one who would have gotten carried away with the aperitifs would have been my father and he wouldn’t have been anywhere near a kitchen what with the marinade he’d given himself making him combustible.

        Bed sheets, people, coffee tables – all ingredients for poetry and thanksgiving.

  4. I suppose one should congratulate yer for celebrating this fowl at all; but honestly, Cynthia – SURELY it can’t be as unappealing as that (but for the single day) ?
    I will readily admit to never having laid eyes on a live turkey: one packaged tightly in plastic is my lot.
    This pome causes me to think of Hilaire Belloc. Why is that?

    • I have some knowledge of live turkeys on a turkey farm, and then there were wild turkeys that used to walk right past my sunporch as I sat there drinking morning coffee….they were on their way to a nearby river until my dog scared them away and they did their low-flying in the trees to another route. Most people I know do get their turkeys as you say…packaged tightly in plastic wrap these days.

      Maybe the pome reminds you of Belloc because he wrote a lot of verse in this rhymey narrative style? I’m thinking of his “Cautionary Tales for Children”. I seem to recall your own talent for such a style of writing…..

  5. I just HAVE to comment again – because I LOVE turkey and cranberry sauce and we only have wild turkeys because they’re everywhere (and fly very high to the tops of trees) and bedsheets for tablecloths (my mother used nothing else which were spread over the old billiard table!) and shopping on Black Friday and pumpkin pie and the whole shebang associated with American Thanksgiving USA – and I’m not even an American! Just a sycophantly ridiculous cultural romantic. Oh – and stuffing.

    • Here I am ready to tell Thanksgiving to get stuffed, and you are exultant about stuffing, pumpkin pie, wild turkeys, cranberry sauce, the whole shebang around the holiday, including Black Friday and sheets on the billiard table! (love, love, love that!) Wonderful, and a tonic. You are not officially an American, and I don’t know if it’s just romantic nostalgia for the time you spent here, but you do possess that treasure of optimism and openness that are the original American spirit. If I haven’t quite enough oomph about it all, at the moment, dear Bruce, I’d say you have enough for us both!

      • That’s very kind. Our “national holiday” is a day of protests and clashes and indigenous rights and everyone trying to make a point about everything and no one enjoying themselves. It’s on February 6th, and called Waitangi Day. It commemorates when the indigenous people signed a Treaty with Queen Victoria. Americans know how to celebrate! They have no shame!! And I picked up my enthusiasm for Thanksgiving while there!

        • Well, now I’ve learned something new about New Zealand!

          Besides the celebrating, I do like the notion of a day of thanks….even if we don’t seem quite to know whom to thank for what. I remember a time when we did not take one bite of the dinner until grace was said. I don’t see much grace being said anymore. Still, gratitude, in general, like Thanksgiving, seems good for the soul, and I do think people feel it at this time, in the small moments between the big hooplas.

  6. Like Bruce, I love Thanksgiving, the stuffing, the pumpkin pie, the turkey and the whole idea of being thankful for what we have. Franklin was watching the wild turkeys, which are not to be messed with and quite clever, not poor overbred giants that don’t live very long (even when left to their own devices).But I do like your poem, its rhythm, and its turkey talk. Lots of people don’t like turkey, but they can eat steak or salmon or many of the other good things out there to be thankful for!

    • You’re right about the steak and salmon, of course. It tickles my funny bone to think of an Italian-American family with whom I once celebrated Thanksgiving and all they did the whole time was complain about having to eat turkey…apparently no on liked turkey but they thought it would be scandalous to have anything else on that day…hilarious! Meanwhile, one of the in-laws, who was Greek was gleefully eating the turkey because he thought of it as vengeance against the Turks, with whom his people had been at war. That was one of my more amusing Thanksgivings!

  7. Turkeys won’t make an appearance (in the aforementioned plastic-wrapped version) here for another week or so in time for Christmas, the only time we eat it here (pretty much) if at all. These days, most people have come to accept the nature of our Christmas and enjoy a barbecue or seafood and salad rather than trying to emulate our frozen northern friends.
    Happy Thanksgiving, Cynthia! (And I agree with M-R about your poem – very Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales. Lots of fun. 🙂 )

    • You’re back!!! Have you posted about your adventure? Have I missed it? Oh my…I must check my list of followings to see if you slipped away from it by some fluke…..

      I’m glad to hear that summer fare is what you folks have at Christmas time…since it’s summer where you are! Snowmen, santa in red fleece, candles against the longest night, red and green everything—these don’t make any sense in December, in the southern hemisphere. I have always wondered what it would be like to be in a warm climate at Christmas but never managed to get there. Thank you for your kind words and good wishes, MoSY….I’m off to find you…

  8. It’s that time already Cynthia? A perfect way to celebrate the all-famous bird, with your words of course! Love this poem, especially as you wander through the lines with your oh so recognizable and distinguished voice – A Happy Thanksgiving to you my friend!

    • And a happy Thanksgiving to you, too, Mary. As the holiday season approaches, I hope you will find rest , a bit of gentle merriment, and some perfect time and mood for painting. Thank you, as always, for your kind and encouraging friendship.

      • Thank you Cynthia for your special message, you are a good friend. A time of the year for remembering and being grateful for the blessings in our lives. It was my good fortune to have found your blog and the beautiful person behind these incredible writings. All the best Cynthia ~
        On a lighter note – speaking of turkeys, I just finished making a big batch of Turkey Chili for this very cold evening (going to 32 tonight, can you believe it? I feel like we are in Maine).

        • Wow! It’s not even that cold here….and we haven’t had snow yet; quite unusual. But as Mainers always say: if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute. Turkey chili sounds delicious…enjoy, keep warm!

          • Oh yes and if you can believe it – the temp was that low this morning when we woke up. But around here we’ll zip back up to the 50’s w/a warm sunshine. Have a wonderful Sunday.

  9. Haa! Perfect! What a delightful ode to that Very Important Bird. Thank you for sharing your voice, too, although I have to admit that before I clicked to listen I was worrying that the sound would be mournful turkey gobbles.

  10. there is no light to write
    now in Budapest
    since my husband is sleeping.
    but i am trying
    on my German Keyboard,
    with all the capitals.
    complicating me,
    in the dark..

    am missing thanksgiving
    for the first time
    in my life.
    luftsansa is on strike.

    can´t help but know,
    the Turkeys,

    the Germans capitilize
    their Name,
    and seem to agree.

    happy thanksgiving to you
    my brilliant friend.

    • Oh, my, Cindy…I am picturing you typing in the Dark on your German Keyboard. What a wonderful Blogger you are! Thank you so much for stopping-by to read. I hope you aren’t too sad about missing Thanksgiving….after all, Gratitude is an eternal and many splendored Thing. And we both know, the World seems to have an endless Supply of Turkeys! My Love, good Journey, and safe Home!

  11. Pingback: Music 60: American Thanksgiving | Weave a Web

  12. There was this turkey out in the woods.
    It was black, not white at all, and looked stringy,
    like it had been having trouble finding enough to eat
    as fall turned winter and the first snow
    dusted the ground with a white skiff.
    A fox, looking for a turkey dinner, stringy meat or not,
    hid behind the trunk of fallen birch tree
    that the strong winds on Thursday had brought down.
    The problem was, the bird with the wattle
    hanging down like it was drooping
    a tangle of lines in the water, fishing for trout,
    saw the tip of the foxes’ tail sticking out
    barely beyond where the white tree
    had severed its trunk from its roots
    and unconcernedly led the chuckling hens away
    from the fox into a copse of cedar trees.
    What are you going to do
    when a wise old bird slips away into cedars
    and leaves your belly aching for a good Thanksgiving dinner?

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