American Life in Poetry: Column 387

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

One of my favorite poems is by Ruth Stone, about eating at a McDonald’s, and I have myself written a poem about a lunch at Arby’s. To these fast-food poems I now propose we add this fine one about IHOP, by Christine Stewart-Nuñez, who teaches at South Dakota State University.

Breakfast for Supper

At IHOP, after the skinny brunette
with a band-aid covering her hickey
comes to whisk away burnt toast,
Mom mentions Theresa, face
brightening. She had a dream
about her—80s flip hair, smooth
complexion. I’ve been living
in Tulsa for eighteen years,
Theresa said. I understand.
Even as I watched men lower
her casket, I fantasized the witness
protection program had resettled her.

How funny we look, mother
and daughter laughing over
scrambled eggs, tears dripping
onto bacon, hands hugging
coffee mugs. For a moment Mom felt
Theresa there. Such faith. Freshen
your cup? the waitress asks me, poised
to pour. Cloudy in the cold coffee,
my reflection. I offer the mug.


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2011 by Christine Stewart-Nuñez from her most recent book of poems, Keeping Them Alive, WordTech Editions, 2011. Reprinted by permission of Christine Stewart- Nuñez and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2018 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.