“Fish-Burger and Fries” by Lowell Jaeger

Lowell Jaeger


I’m writing to you, reader, from a McDonald’s Playland,
while my grandkids frolic like hamsters
inside a maze of plastic tubes.

They begged me to bring them here, jumped
up and down, tugged at my sleeves,
said, please, please.
Poems like this are everywhere.

A portly, bearded man in red suspenders
seats himself nearby. A woman enters,
squinting, scanning faces at the tables.
The man waves and wears a worried smile.
The woman waves like she’s fanning back
a cloud of gnats.

I’m dreaming she’s his estranged daughter.
That’s me, chomping fries and a fish-burger,
jotting notes because it’s a poet’s job
to go where people go and do what people do.

Do you ever like to go bowling? the man says.
He’s unwrapped a burger for her, stands
to fetch a straw for her milkshake.
She’s angled sidewise in her chair, not
facing him. Stop stroking your beard like that, she says,
a bit taken aback to hear the words, the harsh tone.

Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth,
said Picasso. Poems like this are everywhere.
Watch me! Watch me! my grandkids scream sweetly.
The man and the woman wobble between
awkwardness and solemnity. I’m swallowing it all,
pausing between bites and scribbles
to mop from this page of my opened notebook
a dollop of tartar sauce.

from Rattle #59, Spring 2018


Lowell Jaeger: “Poems are happening in plain view every day. It’s a poet’s job, I say in ‘Fish-Burger and Fries,’ to go where people go and do what people do. The older I get, I write from the imagination less and less. The world around us is rich and fabulous. I want to capture the world’s richness on the page, and let the world speak for itself.” (web)

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