poem index

Short-Order Cook

Jim Daniels
An average joe comes in
and orders thirty cheeseburgers and thirty fries.

I wait for him to pay before I start cooking.
He pays.
He ain't no average joe.

The grill is just big enough for ten rows of three.
I slap the burgers down
throw two buckets of fries in the deep frier
and they pop pop, spit spit. . .
pssss. . .
The counter girls laugh.
I concentrate.
It is the crucial point--
they are ready for the cheese:
my fingers shake as I tear off slices
toss them on the burgers/fries done/dump/
refill buckets/burgers ready/flip into buns/
beat that melting cheese/wrap burgers in plastic/
into paper bags/fried done/dump/fill thirty bags/
bring them to the counter/wipe sweat on sleeve
and smile at the counter girls.
I puff my chest out and bellow:
Thirty cheeseburgers! Thirty fries!
I grab a handful of ice, toss it in my mouth
do a little dance and walk back to the grill.
Pressure, responsibility, success.
Thirty cheeseburgers, thirty fries.

From Show and Tell: New and Selected Poems by Jim Daniels. Originally appeared in Places/Everyone. Copyright © 1985 by Jim Daniels. Reprinted by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. All rights reserved.

Jim Daniels

by this poet

poem
She danced in front of the window, 
snowflakes glowing behind her 
under the streetlight. The blue silk blouse
slipped off her arms and floated out of sight. 
Black slacks into a shadow, then 
the quick shiver, the beautiful awkward gesture 
into nakedness. Her skin startled me--
luminous or pale, depending. We