The Kitchen as Slaughterhouse Where Crucifixion is Just Another Permutation of Loss
The poem reverses conventional understanding of the kitchen as a place of creation and perhaps of life-giving because in common understanding, food is a necessary item for survival. The kitchen being a place where food is made then gives it that significance of life. However, this poem alters that convention by identifying how the kitchen itself can be a slaughterhouse, a place for the marring of beings. Also, it calls to mind the common stereotype of the kitchen as a woman’s ideal place. The kitchen takes on a broader figure as the societal deterrent, especially in the African setting, holding back the woman from reaching out for her goals. There is this image of the woman as the life-giver who must give away herself to household duties and in respite, sacrifice herself on the altar of wifehood. The poem also considers how there is the background picture of death in order for satisfaction to be attained. As animals need be slaughtered (as well as dreams) for a meal to be ready.
Today, the messiah lays life down before a kitchen knife
& I see God in the yolk beaten into a pan, whisked
till angry-yellow, an evening sun. There is glory in the moment
murder segues into martyrdom, as the knife slits with devotion,
as the blood spills & the kettle whistles in prayer, as the fire
throws open its lips to wring & swallow. I believe all knives
are bloodthirsty & the stove, devil’s blue crown, is just one flicker away
from hell. When I stir the Banga soup with a ladle and it sours, I realise
how salvation impairs the soul too. When the buttermilk meant
to sweeten the dish spoils it, I learn how lactose-intolerant grief is.
All my years, I have never seen anything walk into the kitchen
& make it out alive—not the hen, not the lamb, not my mother.
Beneath my meal, I find a grave where something once alive & bristling now lies,
buried, beneath pressure pots & bellies—say animal, say my mother’s dream.
Iheoma J. Uzomba is the editor of The Muse Journal, No. 50 (a journal of creative and critical writing). She is a winner of the Lagos-London poetry prize, a longlistee of the Poetically-written prose contest and a fellow at The Undertow program. Her poems have been published and are forthcoming on Palette Poetry, Rattle Magazine, The Shore Poetry, Kissing Dynamite, The Rising Phoenix Review, Ake Review and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter @iheomauzomba.