“Lunch Today,” Or “WTF I Am So Lame”

She was pretty.
So, so, so, so pretty.
It was a scene straight out of a
John Hughes film, or perhaps
an episode of The Crocodile Hunter:
“CROIKE, she’s a reeeeeeeeal ‘beaut, ain’t she?
Just gorgeous, here in this natural habitat.”
She walked into the di—
no, she GLIDED into the dining hall alone,
getting herself a salad and looking around
uncertainly, apprehensively for a seat.
“Here,” I silently willed. “Over here!”

Nope.

Looking rather lost, she sat
quite as alone as she had come.
And so ensued the internal battle.


-“Go sit with her!”
-“No way!”
-“Why not?”
-“………well, uh, you know….”
-“GETCHYO ASS OVA THERE.”


It was pathetic, but it was settled.
I got up and braced myself for the heart-pounding “Hello” sure to come.
Swiping a plate of salad on my way
(girls love that, I think, maybe),
I make my approach:

Twenty feet.
Ten feet.
Five feet, in the homestretch.
Eye contact.
Smile.
Some other guy slips into the seat next to her.
ABORT.
ABORT.
ABORT.
Dramatic and conspicuous veer left.
Retreat.
Mission failure.
Somewhere John Hughes is crying.

All is lost, and now I’m stuck with a wilted salad that
I don’t want.

Love at Choice Cut

“How much per gram?”
Now you’re in it,
that’s the spirit, in for it,
in for it for good,
for “better or worse ‘til death do us part,”
you said, “‘til death do impart.”
Young, you were young
and living fast in firsts:
first look
first deal
first date
first taste
first love
first love
first love, but which was it?
The fire in your veins or the skipping of your heart?
They’re the same once they hit the bloodstream,
so start counting down
and lend me your ear:
Telephone. Ringing.
It’s been months now, or years, or hours.
Money no money no money big trouble—
Remember, remember her—
Diamond ring and puffy eyes—
Push her down and—
Are those bruises or shadows?—
“Give it to me”—
So long since you’ve really seen her—
“I don’t have it”—
Need the money so take it, take it, take it out—
That’s it, shout it—
Shout it out, smack it out,
say sorry later,
“Baby, it’ll never happen again” later,
happen, again, later.
“Do you trust me?”
Broken bones, broken home—
“I do.”
“Do you love me?”
The blood and beer in bed—
“I do, I do.”
“For as long as we both shall live?”
Half-lives and hospital rooms—
“I do, I do, I do,”
and she would.
She would fix you
but all you want now is a fix.
They’re the same once they hit the bloodstream, so—

To you she is the heat of incandescent bulbs,
a warm sustaining light stripped and sullied by your freezing
fingertips.
She’s that ceaseless shaking whisper of “tomorrow will be better,”
and you let her believe it because you’d like to, too.
But that’s the problem with first loves and
“How much per gram?” and
children yet to be born:
it’s that bulbs will either break or burn
and that no nest of needles
will ever be a home.


Dana Sweeney’s heart is nestled in the small towns and salt marshes of his home in southeastern Georgia. He is interested in the intersection of literature and the social politics of our lives, and his work explores the subtle loves, losses, and lessons that shape us all. He lives for good books and good people, and he dreams of words and worlds not put to paper yet.