by Jonathan Vold

Thursday, November 24

Meleagris Gallopavo

When country fiddlers held a convention in Danville, 
the big money went to a barn dance artist who played 
Turkey in the Straw, with variations... 
— Carl Sandburg

Some say the first Americans had named it for its
Or that Chris called it “tuka” for a peacock he
(By Chris I mean Columbus; Tuka’s Tamil for
And Tamil is the language of Ceylon), but by the
The Brits declared it first and for all time the bird
   from Turkey,
While Science called it meleagris, out of
(Relating it to Guinea fowls, with Latin terms so
They get excused for making things perpetually
Each stop along the trade route added names to
   the imposter:
The Palestinians dubbed the bird an Ethiopian
The Dutch decreed it kalkoen, a Malibarian
(From Calicut of Malibar in India, southwester).

The commonest of turkey tags, for Turks and
   many others,
Is Indian Chicken, for the land Columbus
Thus hindi, dindon, indyk, indjuk, hindishga, all
Of the nascent New World Order of the Turkey.
   Meanwhile, over

In India, some Indians have christened it
Deferring to the name their Portugallan traders
But Peru never knew the bird until the Spanish
   shipped it;
They called it gallopavo, for the peacock Chris descripted

(By Chris I mean Columbus; pavo’s peacock;
   gallo’s chicken;
And Portugallans are the chicken-trading
And so this story goes: the plot unwinds, the titles
But dinner’s on the table; you can call it what you please.

There is no grand denouement in the course of
   human nature
And from the very start the turkey’s oldest
Presented by the Aztecs in their native
Has been a word the world could never say:

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