Modern Maturity

The appeal of the slightly rancid smell of loose meat and onions,
the Pony Burger at Bronco’s Drive In.

My attempt to eke out a living
in an indifferent locale.
There must be a world beyond the world,
a door at the intersection of Saddle Creek and Leavenworth
that I haven’t tried yet. Baker’s Supermarket
is the place to be.

Before the baby boom, everyone thought
being old was cool. Looking through a movie book
I see how Casablanca was advertised.
The sophisticated portrayal of the problems
of two world-weary adults who smoked cigarettes
and liked old tunes. Sleek line drawings of the principals
and the caption, Have you seen it yet?

Too cheap for fast food, my dad
drove us past the fifties’ leftover franchise,
its atomic architecture intact. Someday,
this would be my guilty pleasure.

As a kid I expected authority to see past appearances
and recognize talent raw. On the fourth floor of Central High
I thought I could be quiet and alone
but my work in Studio Art
would bring me attention.
The visiting artist, a weaver,
praised my selection of yarn colors.

The present tells the truth of the past. Lying
on the bunk beds in my room, my divorced mother whispered
confidences to me: what if one day the men you trusted
walked out, and suddenly,
you woke up?

James Cihlar is the author of Undoing, and his poems have appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly, Quercus, Bloom, Minnesota Monthly, Northeast, The James White Review, Briar Cliff Review, Verse Daily, and in the anthologies Aunties (Ballantine 2004), Regrets Only, and Nebraska Presence (Backwaters Press). The recipient of a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship for Poetry and a Glenna Luschei Award from Prairie Schooner, he lives in St. Paul.