Big Mike said he’d teach you just like the old butchers
did in the 50s—before middle managers & quarterly
profits & when a wage earning man had enough time
to make cuts precisely & with honor. Soon the nightmares

rushed in. Keen-edged blades flashed & twirled
in your hands—out of control. You’d wake
like a shelter pup with the jitters, think you’d cut
into your own hand with a cimeter, or worse,

you’d sliced into another butcher, blood streaming
on the meat room floor. Like an ice skater repeating
basic 8’s, if you perfected your daily routine maybe
you could stop the repeating nightmares.

A voice inside drilled:

From a short loin, 
you get T- bone & tenderloin
strips; from the inside round:
cube steaks, stew meat. The top
butt gives shish
chinks, ground
sirloin; shoulder clod
arm roast & fine brisket.

Like an trusted uncle Big Mike intervened, shared
a secret ritual passed through generations
he called putting the knives to sleep. On the kitchen
counter you’d practice & whisper to yourself:

Thank you boning knife, cleaver, chicken
cutter, skinner.  I fold you one
by one, cotton apron clean
& soft. No stains & always
tuck the bottom in. Next, fold
the right side, then the left

& into the apron like a jellyroll 
you’d roll up the knives tightly
& methodically & with a double-knot
tie the long strings around the bundle.

You asked the knives to settle down, beseeched
the blazing edges to stay out of your dreams & before
bed you offered thanks to everything damn little thing
you could think of & finally the nightmares stopped.