I changed the name of the group text
To something I could understand:
Devotees of Nacho Cheese, I think, or
Something about being Grilled + Stuft
Together forever in holy union,
But got no response. I know y’all read it.
I knew when you left the country
There was a chance your tan
Would go to your head, European raves
Pulsing for days and days, continental
Breakfast included in the booking fee.
Save a scrap of understanding
For the folks in the middle states.
Stuck in the Indy airport, I walk circles
Around the food court. Twice now
I’ve seen it wake then die then come alive.
The dining room smells like yesterday’s
Fryer grease. People say you should
Save your best stuff for the big-
Name luminaries, capital-F
Foundations with deep pockets, but
The best art is beamed directly
To the masses: that meme about
The anime butterfly, teens dabbing
In the great outdoors before unleashing
A righteous cloud of vape juice
That flutters and dissipates against
The mountain’s frown. I’ve still got it!
I think as I bite into a cold quesarito,
Imagining how the cheese might have
Dribbled into my beard if I hadn’t waited
Six hours to eat it. Do the denizens
Of a doomed epoch recognize the moment
When their moment is over? Or is it
More like the feeling of getting lost,
Seeing the stuff you recognize
Slowly replaced by the creep of streets
Whose names are baffling and strange?
I’m thinking about how in < 2 months
I’ll be a dad, but I swear this isn’t a poem
About dadness, or my bewilderment
In the face of time’s weird bulldozer.
Instead, this is a poem about how
Dietary recommendations can get fucked,
How what swims in our blood progresses
From mild to medium to hot to fire.
Airport hours are best spent mildly drunk,
Stumbling from gate to gate looking for
An open power outlet. There’s always
A magic sheen around B5, wherever B5
Happens to be. Breaking all the rules
I wrestled with a service dog, bled
A little in the Hudson News, curled in
My tail at the sight of the TSA’s
Body scanners, worried they might
Identify the big bummer lodged
Somewhere mid-torso. My friends
Have grown up, properly, letting go
Of faux-adobe exteriors, double checking
Calorie counts, shepherding their flesh
To a disciplined vista that beams over
My scummy appetites. A nervousness
That gurgles when medical professionals
Approach might be a sign that
Your heart beats in limbo,
Unwilling to commit to the project
Of staying productively alive.
The UFC gym grunts at me from the skyline.
I think it might take my lunch money.
Might beat my face in to prove
Once and for all that the earth belongs to
The shredded and confident. After all,
Once the cool kids started liking D&D
There was no real reason for me
To exist. I’m in Phoenix now, five-hour
Layover before the red eye that will
Take me from a low simmer to a boil,
Sleepless rage at the elbows poking
My big dumb gut. I ache at the memory
Of the garbage I swallowed a few hours prior,
Think about how my high school teacher
Would pull her hair out over
Shakespeare, screaming about Lear:
“The rain! The rain! It’s also happening
Inside him!” If our meat suits
Are a mirror, reflecting the chaos
Of the material world back on itself,
Then this body has something to say
About transcontinental commerce,
The movement of agriproducts
From one state to the next, the killing
And filling required to satisfy
A craving for that which crunches
Before giving way beneath our teeth.
A thin line between eater and eaten,
Layer of tempered aluminum skin
Keeping our pressurized interior from
Reuniting with the great outdoors.
We poured my grandma out in the desert
Over the weekend, picked a resting place
A few miles from Megan’s house,
Cut the bag and that was that.
“Bake in peace!” Aunt Susie shouted
(Not unkindly). Over lunch we talked about
How whenever grandma went to TB
She would order a bean and cheese burrito,
Extra cheese. The decadence!
A quiet life, studded with sapphires.
The landing gear rumbles and extends,
And for a terrifying moment
I am forced to consider the possibility
That we will land safely and I will
Be forced to reckon with the messes
I’ve made. Broken glass, stacks of paper,
Voicemails from old friends, the detritus
Of an earthbound conscience running low
On power. On time. On understanding.
An email reminds me that the cloud
Has only a little space left for these thoughts,
Would you like a terabyte for $9.99?
You call from the cell phone lot telling me
There’s a surprise waiting in the car
And my mind briefly ignites, imagining
Every sort of pleasure: the click of chips
At the MGM Springfield, a mysterious relative
Bequeathing me her fortune, a real future
For our new earthly arrival, a paper sack full of
Something greasy I can gnaw on in silence.
Andrew McAlpine is a writer, stay-at-home dad, and occasional college instructor living in Easthampton, MA. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks: The Volunteer and My Utmost Devotion. In an ideal world he could get a breakfast crunchwrap at any time of the day.
andrew-mcalpine.com / @andrewmcalpine