Usually, when I commit to it,
I’ve bought pre-packaged, thick-sliced stuff
that has red plastic casing around the edge.
I lay some slices down and take a table knife
I can wash in the sink
and cut the stuff in half, then notch
another cut cross-wise in the middle.
My frying pan spitting hot, I pull
cold pink baloney from dangling casing strands,
drop slices flat into the pan,
and run the casing across my open mouth,
corner to corner, hooked in tongue curl,
savoring last clinging morsels.
Grease pops as I sear baloney edges,
notched to keep them flat
against sizzle nested
between seasoned meat and seasoned iron,
baloney caramel and scorch,
until I can’t wait any more,
sometimes not even long enough
to snug it into a biscuit
or a folded slice of near-burnt toast.
Sitting in a two-door ’72 LTD Brougham
outside a county grocery
in August, windows down,
heat shimmer like blown puddles
on asphalt so hot I can smell it,
wet with sweat after driving
with one shoulder hitched just so,
letting wind blow into my left sleeve
to make my shirt ripple flaglike,
opening white butcher’s paper
of fresh-sliced baloney from a hefty chubb,
storebrand white bread and an RC,
three dollars and change in my pocket
and no worries about having enough
money to make it back home
once I find a rural route
busy enough to have a yellow stripe,
deliberately a little lost,
Thomas Alan Holmes, a member of the East Tennessee State University English faculty, lives in Johnson City. Some of his work has appeared in Louisiana Literature, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Appalachian Heritage, The Connecticut Review, The Appalachian Journal, North American Review, Stoneboat, The Florida Review, Blue Mesa Review, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Still: The Journal, and The Southern Poetry Anthology Volume VI: Tennessee, with poems forthcoming in Seminary Ridge Review and The World Is Charged: Poetic Engagements with Gerard Manley Hopkins (Clemson U P).