“Burger King” by Bill Garvey

Bill Garvey


The first man in line can’t find his money. 
He slaps at the pockets of his jeans and his jacket. 
He looks behind and beside himself, then directly at me 
As if I could solve his dilemma, or that I picked his pocket. 
I shrug as the aroma of grease sneaks into my olfactory. 
The girl in the ketchup-colored vest and bonnet 
Has been waiting rather patiently. 
Finally, he finds it, pulls a bill from his wallet, 
Shakes his head, hands her the twenty, 
And we all move a notch on this sprocket.

from Rattle #79, Spring 2023


Bill Garvey: “James Tate’s book, Absences, influenced me to write poetry more than any other thing I can remember. It was 1972. I was 17. He was no less a rock star to me than Mick Jagger. Thirty-five years later, I confronted Tate at an event in Brattleboro, Vermont, at the urging of my wife. He sat on stage before his reading. As I approached, he grimaced. I regretted my decision, but it was too late. Sheepishly, I made my request to interview him for a paper. His wife, Dara Wier, sensing his reluctance, said, ‘What have you got to lose?’ I gave Tate my phone number. I’ll never hear from him, I thought, leaving the stage. Less than a week later the phone rang at our home. My daughter answered. I had blocked out the event in Brattleboro until she said, ‘Dad, it’s for you. Some guy named James Tate.’”

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