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

Rights & Access

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.

  • Jim Daniels

    Jim Daniels is the author of Birth Marks (BOA Editions, 2013) and Show and Tell (University of Wisconsin Press, 2003). He lives in Pittsburgh.