He is the sort of man who takes his toast
well done. The slices fan open, each pale
velvet center is his alone. It is better
not to think of other hands already here:
the fingers that kneaded dough, and palms
that held the loaves. Besides, the heroes
of epics always set off from ugly towns.
His mornings start the same: coffee
percolates, eggs simmer in their pan,
a newspaper unfolds itself. The toaster
accepts the bread by design, two slices
slide in and stiffen against radiant springs;
a single purpose finds clarity doubtless.
He can sense the switch nearing its end
and holds his hands over the chrome mouth,
keeping the bread down to the edge
of burn. There is no perfection greater
than breakfast. Even the executioner
gets a baguette, though the baker sells it
upside down. The rest of the day, the man
follows shadows of hawks across a field.
His hem unravels, baby spiders hatch
in the mailbox, and the squirrel skull
on the sidewalk is only a peach pit.
But no one gets to take the zebra home,
he tells himself, even less than a horse
would be lucky. At night, he sees only
his girl’s eyes, a pair of dark fish
watching him. Her hand on his thigh
is flat; he wishes it could be a hot coil.
(She knows this too.) In the morning,
he wakes in a fist. He wants to tell her
everything. His mouth opens like a box top,
then closes with one cardboard flap tucked
into another, resealable but not airtight.
The future clock of disappointment chimes.
There is no safe word because no one
is there to hear. But breakfast will be perfect.
Robin Beth Schaer’s work has appeared in Tin House, The Awl, Bomb, Denver Quarterly, and Prairie Schooner, among others. She has received fellowships from Yaddo, Djerassi, Saltonstall, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She teaches writing at Cooper Union and Marymount Manhattan College in New York City and occasionally ships out to sea as a deckhand aboard the Tall Ship Bounty. Find her at: twitter.com/robinschaer.