Extra Cheese

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

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