One in the morning in Portland, Maine.
Becky's Diner is still open—
late-night take-out only.
At the window, my girlfriend asks
what kind of hot dogs they use.
The girl who's working isn't sure
and asks the kitchen. Kosher, all-beef,
they answer. I wonder why
it matters. Isn't a hot dog what you get
when you push a broom across
a slaughterhouse floor?
Eyelids and earlobes and unspeakables?
But this poem isn't about hot dogs.
I mentioned the girl on the other side
of the window at Becky's Diner, right?
the one who's working late that night?
Her head cocked to one side.
Tight blonde curls. A friendly girl.
She reminds me of Danielle.
I wonder who reminds you of Danielle?
Now, on to the important part.
The cheeseburger I order reminds me
of the cheeseburgers I ordered
each summer as a kid on Cape Cod
from a lunch wagon in the parking lot
at Newcomb Hollow Beach.
This burger from Becky's,
those burgers at the beach—I swear
they're exactly the same. Exactly.
Which makes me start to wonder
about the manufacturer, the consistency
over the years, the ability to duplicate
a burger experience decades later.
This is no simple matter, but neither
is it the goal of this poem to dwell
on the nature of cheeseburgers.
Shouldn't a real poem ponder
larger fodder? Shouldn't it get
to the center faster? Or better?
(Chris says to cut all of this self-consciousness
from my poems, which makes me even more
self-conscious. What do you think?)
Sure—it would be convenient,
for the sake of this poem, to create
an important conversation between us,
my girlfriend and me, on this occasion,
as we eat our late-night meal at Becky's,
but the truth is that we're just hungry
and far too tired for the stuff of poems.
Maybe we'll end up in Wells next week,
sipping milkshakes on the beach
long after everyone else has left.
And maybe I'll have more luck
finding meaning in that moment,
hearing something important
in the sound of the straw
screeching down through the cross
in the lid, searching for more.
Author Discusses Poems