top of page

Two poems by Michael Brosnan

Updated: Jul 21, 2022


Take the tuna salad, for instance.

The thin man in front of me in the midday line

at a Hell’s Kitchen deli orders it for lunch.

Tuna salad on a bulky roll with sesame seeds.

It comes with a pickle and chips and napkins.

A drink and cookie are extra. And I’m thinking,

Somewhere in the sea, a tuna had been blue-finning

along, content in the company of his glorious

scale-glistening Thunnini tribe. And even

if it didn’t have words for it, or any thought

with shape, the tuna can’t help but eye the baited hook

floating in liquid equilibrium, within such easy reach.

And I’m thinking of folks at the mayonnaise factory, too,

how they aim for the soft light at end of the workday,

tricking themselves into not tiring of jarring

the acrid slop into bottle after bottle. And there’s

the truck driver, too, alone in his long-haul rig,

delivering the cased condiment and canned fish

to this city deli where a young woman with tattoo sleeves

and a pierced tongue scoops the fish-slop onto a bulky roll,

cuts and wraps the sandwich and shoves it

with said pickle, chips, and napkins into a deli bag,

which at some point must have been breathing

the fecund air in a deep-rooted forest of quiet dignity.

And when she’s done, she turns to me, all business,

and says, Next.

I meet her eyes, then look at the menu,

hesitate long enough to be out of urban step again.

Come on, sweetie, she says. What’s your pleasure?

Stockbridge to Lee

Resting at the Mollyockett rest stop in western Maine.

I imagine Mother Theresa washing my feet.

I’m at a picnic table with a king-size plastic cup

filled with an amber inch of flat soda.

I imagine Einstein beside us at the picnic table,

asking me and Mother T, But what is this drink really?

What I know is what I wish I didn’t know: that, with this cup,

I can pull into any BK in the country and refill it for free.

It’s cheating, of course. But no one has stopped me yet.

No limits, no questions. All the sugar and caffeine and ice

to fuel one’s steady undoing. Mother Theresa asks me

where I’m traveling from and to. I say Stockbridge to Lee

by way of Maine, hoping she doesn’t slug me.

What I wish I didn’t know, I tell Einstein, is what I know:

the smell of rest-stop restrooms. How it triggers

memories of every hopeful journey leading to nowhere .

He tells me that no one rests. He writes a formula

on the picnic table. It explains relativity and why traffic yo-yos

and why some hunger for any kind of home and never find it.

His math begs a question: Is this living or is this

self-immolation? Mother Theresa dries my feet.

There you go, my child, she says, patting my knee.

Your feet look fantastic.

Good luck — and pray and play well.

And I do feel better. And I’ve always wanted

to play well. And the wish of good luck

always makes me smile.

Michael Brosnan’s most recent poetry book is The Sovereignty of the Accidental (Harbor Mountain Press, 2018). About the collection, Naomi Shihab Nye writes, “A stunning book.... Poems which stir language, memory, momentary intense awareness, to give us back the bracing joy of clear thinking.” His poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Rattle, Confrontation, Borderlands, Prairie Schooner, Barrow Street, Poetry South, and New Letters. He’s also the author of Against the Current, a book on inner-city education that served as the basis for the award-winning documentary Accelerating America. He is the senior editor for the website Teaching While White and writes often on issues related to education and equity.

Recent Posts

See All

Two poems by Mckendy Fils-Aimé

sipèstisyon If people say your child is beautiful, your child will become ugly. ok, i confess. once, i said fuck you to danny perkins on the last day of kindergarten after a miserable year of being pu

"Dead Things" by Beth Boylan

I feel compelled to pick up the baby bird that has died just outside my doorstep this morning. Place her in my hand and rub her toothpick ribs with my thumb. Gently kiss the milky-blue bulbs of her ey

Two poems by Daniel Edward Moore

Hey, Future is that you / in the moment / a Buddhist might love / enough to hyperventilate / or the day’s dizzy spin /of 24 hours / kicking joy / to the curbs / of chaos / blessed by Hallmark’s / squa


bottom of page