after James Arthur
On a sunny afternoon in the best year
of my life, as palm trees cast stabs of shadow
on honeycomb brick, I watched an empty bag
of Cheetos billow with the wind and scrape
past my feet. No one else saw this, and so
it was all mine: a fine aluminum sail moving
graceful as a theorem. It was irrefutable.
My mental grocery list vanished, meaning
fennel might have been what I’d meant to buy,
likely as eggs or ground turkey.
A Cheetos bag. A Cheetos bag. It skated off—
toward other trash, I guess. Instead of the store,
I went home, where I undressed, my good suit
in a pool of its own melting where it fell.
I sat on the couch in just my underwear
and watched the ticker tape of news till dark.
But the empty bag kept skating at my feet,
or my mind’s feet. And as the president,
himself an alarming orange, dictated
my fears to me, I thought about fingers
still carrying that same faint glow long after
the last Cheeto vanished, its little crook
of mostly air digested now. Don’t ask
me why, but these days I can’t stop eating them,
letting the bright crumbs gather on my lips.
From the book Petty Theft. Original appearance in Salmagundi.
Nicholas Friedman is the author of Petty Theft, winner of the The New Criterion Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in The New York Times, POETRY, Yale Review, and other venues. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow, he is also the recipient of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. He lives with his wife and son in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he works as a Jones Lecturer in Poetry at Stanford.