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The Unquiet

My impression
of the grilled cheese was that it
thought it was a grilled
cheese, but it seemed to dislike
itself, like its parents

had been fat-free
or something, so
it was loathing its fat-free parents
for the spirit
it lacked to properly melt.  My

impression of the grilled cheese
was that it seemed dis-
enfranchised.  Its bread
lacked voice, it wasn’t
grateful, didn’t

embrace fully
its toasted golden brown
mission.   Was it more
civilized than
buttered toast?  Sure.  Big deal. 

Yet it seemed the grilled cheese
had been tragically betrayed
by impossible cooking conditions:
a cheap, extremely non-
nonstick pan for example. 

I guess then you could say
I didn’t quite believe
in the grilled cheese.  Yet I
admired it.  The fatalistic
way it waited on its plate.  Its silent

with my appetite.  The faith
it had I would eat it
no matter what, even though
I wasn’t hungry.



The manager sticking
                                                his hand in the breading.  The manager

            sticking his breaded hand

                                                in the frialator just long enough

so when he pulls it out
a frequently a nightmare-looking thing encrusted

                                                in sudden crust emerges.  Then the manager
says to the new busboy
                                                the new busboy who’s standing there blinking

horrified not knowing what
the manager
                                                Don’t mess with me.


                        But gradually that same manager

            will act all friendly
                        toward the new busboy

                                                asking if he remembers

blowing bubbles when he was a kid?
& when the new busboy says Sure

            I remember blowing bubbles when I was a kid
            the manager will say Well he’s on the phone now

asking for you. 


Upside-Down Crates

I would get these assertions
like a bucket of eels.  These serious
denials like seagulls
screaming in the fog
of your parents’ love life.  Like the butt-
head tourist kid on the dock pitching

alka seltzers to the screaming gulls.
Maybe it was when the chowder cook
said he downshifted
into third & took the dirt road home
on his date with the waitress. 
The middle-aged middle school teacher
waitress.  The middle-aged waitress

who could have been my middle school
teacher back in the day!  Who somehow enjoyed
waitressing in the summer
which is the opposite of
summer, in order to keep busy

I would be sitting

alone on the upside-
down crates anticipating the un-
certainty between
the last party of the night & dragging
my ass back to work
the next morning.  Sitting on the upside-down
crates searching for the meaning
of sitting on the upside-down

crates considering what
it means for the crates to be upside-down.
Stunned at the possibility
that downshifting
into third with the chowder cook
in the cab of his truck was somehow

a middle-school teacher’s idea
of keeping busy.



the clam roll
                                    pissing lemon juice
                                                down the French
                                    crinkled leg

woke the manager—

                                    (that’s what started the war)


Picking Up the 7-10 Split

I never met a mascot that I
didn’t want to punch
in the face.
A terrible fact I
live with like how Bibles sleep in
drawers next to beds in motels.
My uncle . . .
the one & only time we met
he said people
could just catch on fire.  It’s called
spontaneous combustion. 
We were at the bar sharing
a pitcher of Schlitz &
a corned-beef. 
I was barely 10 years old.  It’s what
you call
a formative experience.  


Matthew Guenette is the author of two books: American Busboy (University of Akron Press, 2011) and Sudden Anthem (Dream Horse Press, 2008).  He lives and works in Madison, Wisconsin, and occasionally blogs at www.matthewguenette.com (see Links).