Jim Daniels' "American Cheese" is today's featured poem read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer's Almanac. Daniels' new and fourteenth poetry collection Birth Marks (BOA, September 2013) travels from Detroit to Ohio to Pittsburgh, from one post-industrial city to another, across jobs and generations. Daniels focuses on the urban landscape and its effects on its inhabitants as they struggle to establish community on streets hissing with distrust and random violence. Read the poem below, and click here to listen to it read. American Cheese At department parties, I eat cheeses my parents never heard of—gooey pale cheeses speaking garbled tongues. I have acquired a taste, yes, and that's okay, I tell myself. I grew up in a house shaded by the factory's clank and clamor. A house built like a square of sixty-four American Singles, the ones my mother made lunches With—for the hungry man who disappeared into that factory, and five hungry kids. American Singles. Yellow mustard. Day-old Wonder Bread. Not even Swiss, with its mysterious holes. We were sparrows and starlings still learning how the blue jay stole our eggs, our nest eggs. Sixty-four Singles wrapped in wax— dig your nails in to separate them. When I come home, I crave—more than any home cooking—those thin slices in the fridge. I fold one in half, drop it in my mouth. My mother can't understand. Doesn't remember me being a cheese eater, plain like that. Newly printed copies of Birth Marks are now available at the BOA Bookstore. Pre-order your copy today and get it in your hands early!
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