Government Cheese


I learned what lu­st was waiting for the rise
of it on toast, a bright and brine conjugate,
flushed, then deepened into something more
like a rush of poppies, orange spilled
over yellow. Every summer we drove right
across town where men in a warehouse played catch

with oblong boxes, before they released to my catch
one box of silver-wrapped gold. Caramelized
satisfaction, a tincture of saffron for the summer’s diet,
living off the fat of the land, as if milk and honey were all we ate,
was made with this wonderful food, government cheese. Grilled
cheese, toasted cheese, buttery hunks on greens or

spinach, cheese broiled on bacony potatoes, cheese poured
over broccoli, sandwiched with ham, string beans caught
in their yellow blanket, cheesy eggs, white bread n cheese. Fill
your plate with enough, your stomach bigger than your eyes.
Desire comes like that, a promise to immolate
hunger, that double yolk of worry and fear, until you’re tight

with love, even if it’s your grandmother’s, even if you’re eight.
Every summer I’d arrive more hungry, more
angry and always she tamed me with what we ate
and what she let me say. We caught
words from each other and played games with lies.
I’d open my mouth and words would spill, and spill.

Praise to my grandmother for an iron will
to feed me out of my fog. Gesundheit!
Dankeschön, bitte sehr, we’d say, a reprise
from her childhood she refused to unwind more.
I think about what is unsaid, what is taught.
What is left for us to create.

Marigold, memory, abundance, aureate.
Dubliner cheddar, deluxe singles, pepper jack, havarti dill,
brie, manchego, mascarpone, no government, all market-
bought. My husband feeds me cheese at night:

scrambled eggs with it, figs holding it, reservoirs of pleasure.
Cheese with apples, green grapes, sparkling water, wine. I rise
sometimes, from our bed late in the night, let twilight
spill from the refrigerator’s open door.
Let the kitchen fold me in til I’m sated, wanted. No longer surprised.



Originally appeared in Unsplendid, including audio version.

Nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets.