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.
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