American Life in Poetry: Column 422

I love writing poems about the most ordinary of things, and was envious, indeed, when I found this one by Michael McFee, who lives in North Carolina. How I wish I’d written it.


How well its square
fit my palm, my mouth,
a toasty wafer slipped
onto the sick tongue
or into chicken soup,

each crisp saltine a tile
pierced with 13 holes
in rows of 3 and 2,
its edges perforated
like a postage stamp,

one of a shifting stack
sealed in wax paper
whose noisy opening
always signaled snack,
peanut butter or cheese

thick inside Premiums,
the closest we ever got
to serving hors d’oeuvres:
the redneck’s hardtack,
the cracker’s cracker.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2012 by Michael McFee from his most recent book of poems, That Was Oasis, Carnegie Mellon Univ. Press, 2012. First printed in Threepenny Review #107, Vol. 27, no. 3, (Fall 2006). Poem reprinted by permission of Michael McFee and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2013 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.