What They Ate, Where They Ate It
Instant Ralston in a cold kitchen, my father at the
window,
 
the smell of Aqua Velva mingling with the pulverized 
mush so it was all I knew
 
of money,
the two bowls sucked down—no spoon—
 
over the sink.
Dish towel tucked in his buttoned collar.
 
This was work, his theory of work:  he shaved and did
not cut his throat.
 
And then the one slice of American cheese between two
pieces of Wonder bread,
 
a staggering paucity of spirit he ate with a cup of coffee
at his desk,
 
the quarter inch thick piece of glass
holding down the year,
 
the schedules, the trim margins,
with its transparent
 
press.  A receipt tucked in.
A business card.
 
While I spooned down glop in a lunch room cafeteria,
the daily human oil like Vaseline
 
in the mind.
On the trays, the spoons, the knives.
 
Or when I walked home, a fried egg sandwich
at the drop-down table
 
that folded like a bed.
Cream of tomato soup.  A split open column of crackers.
 
Was my soul fed?  Did the miracle
of love stick to my ribs,
 
half-breath in the aftermath of eating?
The feel of 1962
 
still in my mouth. 
A bird feel.  Dust feel.
 
My spit clogged.
And then later the majesty of the casserole.  A can
 
opened. The Spam diced.  Cream
of whatever vegetable smoothing the congealed mass.
 
It had a crust like earth.  It had edges.
Weird volcano of my mother’s making.
 
We prayed.  We gnashed it down and
swallowed, we coughed it up.
 
At the good oak table formica-ed
with a skim ice.
 
At the chrome steel table
painted the color of a One-A-Day vitamin.
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