National Poetry Month, Day 17: “Ode to Government Cheese” by Oscar Bermeo


Ode to Government Cheese

The streets are alive with your radioactive smile,
your distinct glow, not quite pumpkin, not quite
squash, not quite orange; no, not anything organic.
You are your own corona of light, a cubic sun blessed
with your own properties of gravity and motion.
We imagine building whole cities from your
dense, coarse texture that does not bend easily
to any knife or flame you come in contact with.

You are the answer to urban plight, the gift from
white flight, the response to nightly newscasts
constantly heralding our impending demise.

Like every good Messiah, you come unannounced,
sent from angelic convoys of delivery trucks
in the cover of night and bureaucracy
to finally fill the promise of empty cupboards.

We never asked for you in this way. Our prayers
were for sustenance to survive the workday.
But we are not enemies; you take pride at your
place on the dinner table. Like us, you ask
for a chance to fulfill your function and feed us.

We won’t turn you down, we can’t afford to,
not because of poverty but because of culture.
We were taught early to take advantage
of all parts of the animal; learned the tongue
and eyes make a savory broth; ears
and intestines mixed with rice and hot
sauce make for a royal banquet.
With that knowledge, we take a broad knife
to your radiant heart, cut you in uneven
strokes, lay you down with margarine and
Wonder Bread, bake you golden, press you
against our mouths, and sing your praises.

Oscar Bermeo

Oscar Bermeo is the author of the poetry chapbooks Anywhere Avenue, Palimpsest, Heaven Below and To the Break of Dawn. He makes his home in Oakland with his wife, poeta Barbara Jane Reyes.

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →