THERE WILL SOON BE A MCDONALD’S HAPPY MEAL FOR ADULTS
—Tweet from NPR News, September 29th
I got my first Happy Meal on a Friday—
after a week of grading and department
Zooms, of talking my mother through crises
of health, of IEP meetings for my son,
of smoothing new creases with night cream,
of the first frost to kill this summer’s
garden—and the red box with golden arches
promised salt, the comfortable familiarity
of fries that taste like America’s best promise,
the tang of pickles like primordial brine, but also
something more. The surprise prize inside.
What do you call the existentialism of autumn’s
dying light, red glow just a smudge of ketchup
along the horizon, while you wait for
a minimum wage worker to hand you
an analogue for happiness from her bright
window and into the dark recess of your car?
But I digress. The first toy I got was
a Tana French novel, one I read before,
having read them all already. Still, I switched
on the cab light to read, loving, as I do,
murder, and stabbing fries into my mouth.
The next Friday, again, so hungry for a thing
I hoped to feed at Mickey D’s, another red box
full of hope, hope held aloft and motionless
in Marietta’s hands for those split seconds
before I can grab it, hope woven of cars
merry-go-rounding through the pick-up line.
The next toy was a decent bottle of red,
and I shouldn’t have, but I drank half right
where I was parked, close to the building
in order to read last week’s French novel
by the florescence beaming from the dining room
into the sulk of dusk. The following week
I got a certificate for a massage, so I finished
the other half of the bottle in the car, washing
down my early death, dubbed fast food,
with cabernet, and closing the final pages
of the novel against its doom, all in order
to roll up on the bodywork parlor.
What do you call the existentialism
of men and women starving for touch?
Skin beneath their clothes as urgent
to absorb the masseuse’s oil as an apple pie
dipped into a fryer? Their bodies snaking
in a line through three neighborhoods
just to get in, just to have hands laid
upon them? You don’t have to answer.
It was rumored the following week was
to be, somehow, a hot tub, and the week after
a babysitter, though I don’t know how they
would have pulled it off. We never
found out. For a while cars slipped into
the lot and sat there with engines idling,
silhouettes of their drivers like statues
carved in the name of confusion, then
they backed out into the street again. I heard
that McDonald’s, citing the immense
expense of adult happiness, had
discontinued the program.
—from Poets Respond
October 4, 2022
Sonia Greenfield: “Sometimes you read something in the news, and it begs to be a poem. I mean … as if a McDonald’s meal with a prize could make an adult, like, for-real happy? It’s useful to consider, as Zadie Smith did, the difference between pleasure and joy. No doubt an adult Happy Meal would provide me with a moment of pleasure.” (web)