Stanzas for catching a breath after the week

Against Imagism,” by Monica Youn. “Late July. The wet / and dry zones of a firefly’s / chitinous body / fuse in a blue spark….” If you’re curious, here’s the definition of chitinous. It’s pretty much what you think it might be (the type of body a firefly has), but I love how its root word means “mollusk.”

The Dictionary,” by Charles Simic, is the first one I’ve added to my fridge-door collection in a long time. I find myself looking for a lot of words these days. So, when this poem begins, “Maybe there is a word in it somewhere / to describe the world this morning,” I’m in. Even better? A happy end.

In July/August’s issue of Poetry, what I appreciate most is the bluntness. Michael Ryan’s “A Thank-You Note” is just what it claims to be, beginning: “My daughter made drawings with the pens you sent.” Robert Thomas’ (terrifying) “The Gift” sets the stage as quickly, opening with “When I got the box home from the gun shop.” In Steve Gehrke’s “Ships of Theseus,” there’s both a prologue explaining the ships and a line later, “this is just another poem about divorce.” All three poems gift the crux and still stun.

The thing I dig second most — and, yes, that’s how we’re going to phrase it right now — is the weird dualities. “Double Vision” by Wilmer Mills pairs real and imagined visions of life inside a Waffle House. In “Greed,” Philip Schultz puts rich and poor in the same empty homes. Kay Ryan uses two bubbles to talk about “Salvation.” Wilmer Mills’ “Diluvian Dream” puts life and death in one lawn. In his “Falling,” James Dickey couples the same more directly, as a flight attendant falls from a jet. Not the poem to read before going to bed and trying to dream. Exhilaration doubles with fear.

As a balm, try Scott Cairns’ “Idiot Psalm 12,” on “uncommon darkness.”

In another poem, I simply like the line, “A ghetto blaster spools ghazals.”

And there’s “Eggs,” also by Kay Ryan. “We turn out / as tippy as / eggs.”

We sure do.

Finally, writing the unwritten bias

Finally, a Thin President,” an op-ed in Wednesday’s New York Times. This blog doesn’t do politics, but it does back messing with columnist conventions on all sides of the aisle to show love to skinny people.

We knew it’d be an uphill battle. America has a long, troubled history. Last summer, The Wall Street Journal came out and said what all Americans felt, but were too afraid to say aloud: “In a nation in which 66 percent of the voting-age population is overweight and 32 percent is obese, could Senator Obama’s skinniness be a liability? Despite his visits to waffle houses, ice-cream parlors and greasy-spoon diners around the country, his slim physique just might have some Americans wondering whether he is truly like them.” Had he bitten off more than he could chew?

“A lot of bigots woke up yesterday to the reality of our modern world. To them I say, just because you have a high metabolism, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a fierce moral vision and the right ideas to fix this country. It just means that you don’t gain weight easily.”

Working at Waffle House

Every company needs a program like this one.

During his 12-week management trainee program, Rivers, like every other aspiring manager, will learn and perform every job in the joint, from baking waffles to grilling hash browns to mopping floors and cleaning tables.

It’s the only way to get into management. The company doesn’t hire potential executives who aren’t willing to risk scorching fingertips on a waffle iron.

How the Waffle House system works.


I went to a Waffle House today. It was my first visit to any Waffle House. There I ate a waffle, bacon, toast, scrambled eggs, and grits. (“Sure, sure, I heard of grits,” My inner Cousin Vinny says. “I just actually never seen a grit before.”) Washed it all down with a tall glass of orange juice.

In doing some reading now, apparently I ate at Waffle House #1000. It’s located in Avondale Estates, Ga., the chain’s founding city. The very first restaurant used to sit just down the street from #1000. I wonder what Nate Winegar is up to these days.