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American Cheese

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. 

—Jim Daniels

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.

Poetry 180

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.