It glides tectonic along placid soup surface—
slushy shreds of chicken fat
split apart with a spoon.
Great-grandma did not let
a patch of poultry go to waste.
Had the bird come unplucked,
she would needle tapestries
out of its ruffled feathers.
She cleaved the shimmer from bone,
spread the slippery stuff on burnt
toast, and the giblets gone flying
to a greasy pan. She left the schmaltz in her
mouth like a second tongue,
a muscle of manna, of its memory,
of a voyage across oceans of borscht.
We eat schmaltz to never lose
the slick shine of an old world
where shtetl kitchens smoldered
through brittle nights and chickens
sang arias in pots of molten broth.
Soft solid and yet translucent,
this food is history’s heft.
We keep on chewing the fat,
letting the bones simmer and spin,
serving up the skin. We hope to
be rendered right, to be so
heart-stuck and essential.
Joseph Reisberg is a queer Jewish poet and student at Goucher College, where he studies history and creative writing. In 2016, he served as the National Student Poet for the Northeast region, sponsored by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.