Suburban Blues; or, Fuck Norman Rockwell

I recall my family in the car with the windows down,
leaning into summer with the hope of youth. Clouds
rushed the sky, burning away their inner spokes
of sun. We knew our sprinkler-running days
were upon us again
for as long as the bees
nodded in the thick grass
and the nights came cloaked
in sunset heat.
A family outing meant dinner at McDonald’s
until my father introduced us to Taco Bell
and we perked up for a while, sad little rats
looking for cheese
the way I’d come, in later years, to look for beer
or brandy
or absinthe. A warm quesadilla can cure the blues,
you know, make them seem
wanted, like a puppy with a broken paw. Or maybe
we suffered from boredom, plagued by the whiff of a life
beyond French fries, the kind of panicked ache you feel
when you can’t see past the maze you’re given. What’s
on the other side, will it explain all of…this. Sometimes
the hurt is also the comfort and the comfort
never stops. I recall ineffables more than names,
the silences of a new song more than the words. Once
back when we were still speaking
my father took me for breakfast at Taco Bell.
It was the 90s and we were checking out a college
together, just like a happy family.
He looked at me askance as I steeped my tea
longer than he thought I should.
Caffeine is water-soluble, you know, he said,
the judgment left unuttered.
I remember this quite clearly. But Google says—
by omission—that Taco Bell doesn’t serve hot tea.
Did they ever?
Perhaps my keenest memory of Taco Bell
is of somewhere else
and my mistake obscures the bright chill
of an Edward Hopper painting
that might have been—
a family staring
into the heart of the evening sun.

Amee Nassrene Broumand is an Iranian American writer from the Pacific Northwest. A Best of the Net nominee and a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared in numerous journals including Glass: A Journal of Poetry (Poets Resist)Rust + MothBarren MagazineSundog Lit, and Empty Mirror. Find her on Twitter @AmeeBroumand.  

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