Ron McFarland (PhD, University of Illinois) is Professor of English and creative writing at the University of Idaho and has published The World of David Wagoner (University of Idaho Press, 1997). Read other work by Ron McFarland published in Weber Studies: Vol. 8.1 (fiction), Vol. 12.1 (poetry), Vol. 17.0 (essay), Vol. 17.1 (fiction), Vol. 19.3 (fiction), Vol. 22.2 (essay), Vol. 23.1 (Fiction).
At the Konkolville Steakhouse
The pale and wan tomatoes do their best
to taste like something, anything at all.
It's so deep in January only broccoli,
sauerkraut and cottage cheese feel up to it.
The guy in the comer wearing the grim
green John Deere cap works at the mill next door
"for a mean, vicious son-of-a-bitch,"
he tells the waitress. She says she knows,
she's heard it all before. Of course
the bacon bits are not the real thing,
but sawdust and soy beans have their rights
in Idaho, and the sourdough is good.
The country music makes ambiguous moan,
questions that could be answers:
"Anybody break your heart? Anybody
done you wrong?" Do you know when to fold 'em
under the slice of red spiced apple
where the exhausted lettuce wilts?
The cowboy in the quilted coat and dirty Stetson
says he's leaving for Lewiston
where he can do all his shopping at Wal-Mart.
The woman with him says "not tonight
for chrissake." Choice top sirloin
all over the world have united,
thrown away their chains. They will not be
medium-rare! All or nothing! Moderation
breeds cowardly bourgeois gourmets.
Tricked out in tin foil, the baked potato
flexes its russet muscle. It is
where the action is, hardy carbohydrate
equal to January, unintimidated.
"I never meant to hurt you,"
croons the Nashville cowboy. "I still love you
after all these years." But it's hard to digest
even the best of steaks, sweet darlin',
through this vale of tears.
Last night the newscaster said snow,
said avalanches in the mountain passes,
said population would reach six billion
worldwide by the turn of this century
if you want to know what the real blizzard
is all about.
He looks like a nice guy,
just the way he's supposed to. That's why
they hired him, a broad friendly smile,
nut-brown well-combed hair, comfortably forty
forever, your father in his prime, your
He grins sympathetically
right through those passengers stranded
in airports, asleep on relentless benches
in bus terminals. He shakes his head
sadly at the old Chevrolet crumpled
under the semi. He wishes he could do
something about all this, but he can't,
and it's not his fault.
But he sees things.
He sees there are too many of us in this
stormy world. He sees in his monitor
how we keep getting in each other's way,
how we slide disastrously into each other
as if hitting patch after patch of black ice.