The friends, those of us who’d split
the rent with him that summer
plus a few others, driving into Tennessee.
And stopping in Knoxville for the night,
the funeral being tomorrow. The couples
heading for the Day’s Inn, the rest
spreading sleeping bags like folds of pita
all across the scroungy rug in someone’s
brother’s hot apartment. Next day,
the lot of us encased in suits and dresses,
waiting just outside Englewood
at this Burger King, watching
for Brian’s stepmom—we would need
to follow her out the back roads. Me
thinking how close we are to Oak Ridge,
all that uranium coughed up for the A-bomb,
who knows what’s still in the groundwater.
Thinking of Brian, and his body:
Practically born with cancer, dude was.
And why a Burger King—the smell
of that food, those flame-broiled burgers,
and food being the last thing
on anyone’s mind. But every one of us
placing orders, filling our guts
with fries and Whoppers and Cokes
without enthusiasm and without shame.
And, for the moment, without grief.
by Steve Petkus
Steve Petkus has work forthcoming in Tar River Poetry and Naugatuck River Review, and other poems of his have appeared in Blueline, Cider Press Review, CutBank, DASH, Pavement Saw, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA in creative writing (poetry) from the University of Michigan. Steve works as a school librarian in New Jersey and lives with his wife and two sons in New York’s Hudson Valley.