“American Cheese” by Jim Daniels
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
At department parties, I eat cheeses my parents never heard of—gooey pale cheeses speaking garbled tongues. I have acquired a taste, yes, and that's okay, I tell myself. I grew up in a house shaded by the factory's clank and clamor. A house built like a square of sixty-four American Singles, the ones my mother made lunches With—for the hungry man who disappeared into that factory, and five hungry kids. American Singles. Yellow mustard. Day-old Wonder Bread. Not even Swiss, with its mysterious holes. We were sparrows and starlings still learning how the blue jay stole our eggs, our nest eggs. Sixty-four Singles wrapped in wax— dig your nails in to separate them. When I come home, I crave—more than any home cooking—those thin slices in the fridge. I fold one in half, drop it in my mouth. My mother can't understand. Doesn't remember me being a cheese eater, plain like that.
From In Line for the Exterminator, 2007
Wayne State University Press, Detroit, MI
Copyright 2007 by James Daniels.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of Doubleday Permissions Dept. c/o Random House, Inc. Copyright 1983 by Random House Inc. For further permissions information, contact Doubleday Permissions Dept. c/o Random House, 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036.
About the Poet
Jim Daniels is the author of Birth Marks (BOA Editions, 2013) and Show and Tell (University of Wisconsin Press, 2003). He lives in Pittsburgh.
Learn more about Jim Daniels at The Poetry Foundation.