Dream Vignette: I Dreamt I Saw my Mother at the Poultry Shop at Key Food

Roz Leibowitz. <i>October</i>, 2006, 15.75 x 10 in, pencil on vintage drawing. Courtesy of the artist.

Roz Leibowitz. October, 2006, 15.75 x 10 in, pencil on vintage drawing. Courtesy of the artist.

I dreamt I saw my mother at the poultry shop at Key Food. She was behind the counter, standing before a table, a large table covered with an immaculate white cloth. She, too, was dressed in perfect white, an apron of substantial cloth neatly ironed, a scarf to hide her black hair. Fanned out on the table in front of her were five tiny scissors on her right hand, five tiny knives by her left hand.

The line of customers stretched the length of the store and out the door into the early spring of Mosholu Parkway. The birds were brought out, and for Mrs. Schmidt, the first in line, my mother removed the wishbone. She lifted the skin from the neck of the bird and turned it inside with the same quick movements she used to knot my father’s ties and square his shoulders and brush the dust off his jacket to send him out into the world, always with the quick little intake of breath as he turned and grabbed his briefcase, and closed the door.

For Mr. Gottfried, she freed the wings, pulling the flesh away from the shoulder until the tough white bands of sinew were exposed, and she could pull at the threads the way she pulled at a hole in my father’s shirts before darning them closed once again.

And then, for the next in line, she snapped the collarbone free of the breastbone. And then pulled, gently, on the shoulder blades, first one, then the other, lifting the ivory architecture out through the neck to expose the rest of the skeleton deep within: the rib cage, the breast bone, the backbone, the spine.

The rest was for the knives and shears. She cut like she learned English. biting down on her lip with the finest traces of sweat on her forehead, holding her breath at this new world that was growing day by day hollow with darkness.

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