Two Poems

by Charles Nutter Peck

The Peanut Barrel

We’re on the patio of the Peanut Barrel in East Lansing,
            Sarah and I, having a pitcher in the heat. I order
     a round of fries because I know it’s Sarah’s favorite,
and when asked for ketchup our server says, Of course,
            they don’t call me the Boss of Sauce for nothing,
     and I just love that. During the flood in ’09, I foraged
through four feet of shit in my grandmother’s basement
            in search of what was salvageable. I found a bottle
     of Vicks VapoRub from the ’50s, and in the fine print
below the toxic chemicals was written Close tightly. Loss
           is unavoidable. My mind spins thinking of T
     from fourth grade, whose name was really Josh,
and no matter how often he reminded us of that fact,
           we called him T until one day, ten years old,
     he swallowed every pill in his dad’s medicine cabinet.
When I meet someone new, I now annoyingly repeat
           their name until I can’t forget. Katie, who cold
     brews my coffee. Matt, who walks his bulldog
each morning at six. Not everyone is so lucky to smear
           their mark like a dog’s slobber on a windowpane.
      When I worked insurance my clients had no names,
just case numbers assigned, and daily I’d receive memos
            stating C38-1442: Deceased, close account,
     and though it was my job, it felt wrong that death
held just one word. Like everyone, I think about dying
            nonstop, frying chicken thighs, pinching the buds
     from the basil on my porch, sitting in my new office
leafing through page after page. We’ve had sex on my desk
            twice this week, Sarah and I, because sometimes that’s all
     you can do. We drink two more pitchers, and then a fourth,
eat another heap of fries as the taillights on Grand River Avenue
            blur. I’m happy tonight, and my life is okay. I read
     that somewhere, and it comes to me now. We stand to leave,
and Sarah mentions to the host that we loved our server,
            and the host says, Oh thank you, who did you have?
     and Sarah says, We don’t know, we never caught her name.


The Radio Show
Jefferson High airs a classic rock radio station,
            and this morning on my way to the grocery store
     two seniors have the chemistry teacher on, to thank him
for all that he’s taught them over the years, and everyone
            is blubbering, the microphone sounding wet ­
     with snot and tears, every three words punctuated 

by a deep, flapping snort, and before you know it I’m crying
            too, just thinking about Mr. Salton and his beakers,
     the safety goggles. What drama for a can of beans.
Inside the sliding doors they arrange the finest fruit
            at the front, but a watermelon is a hard sell
     when you live alone and don’t eat. The iron cart’s
back wheel wobbles as I push, the steady thum-thum
            thum-thum calming. On the radio, Mr. Salton
     explained why chemistry, why, of all things,
giraffes and julienned onions and meatpackers,
            why chemistry. I like the way things always
     carry the ability to change, and I thought, Wow,
what horseshit. In my high school choir I knew a boy
            named Preston whose sharp tenor cut cleanly
     over the sweaty blob of boys and girls. He wore
a blue sweatshirt almost daily, his I’m fucked up
            sweatshirt, and if that dirty cotton crossed
     the carpet you could expect slurs and pinpoint eyes,
all the symptoms of dope before we knew the drug
            or how the bags under his eyes were really
     perennial bruises from his father’s hands. But, man,
could Preston sing. Now he’s in prison. Stole
            a taser from an officer and robbed a gas station,
     which is the dumbest way to do it unless you want
to touch whomever you threaten to kill, which I guess
            is family some days. I said this to my sister,
     and she dropped a toenail into my coffee.
She’s a gorgeous painter, but her shower has a ring
            of acrylic around the drain. Once in college
     I took a girl home from a bar, stumbled
through the back streets to my house, when a man
            slipped through the bushes, his knife glinting
     in the streetlight, and all he could ask was
Chuck? My luck, that the mugger had shared a cell
            with me in county, that my mistake saved
     that slash across the gut. I wake each morning
at quarter to five. I put the coffee on, pull meat
            to thaw for my dinner. Pork chops on sale
     today, and I fill my cart. Before they signed off
the air, Mr. Salton said, I can’t wait to see who
            all of you become, as if they don’t already know.

Charles Nutter Peck is from Omaha, Nebraska. He currently lives in Lafayette, Indiana where he is an MFA candidate at Purdue and serves on the masthead of Sycamore Review.