The 2River View 17.1 (Fall 2012)

Joe Benevento

After Finding Out I Looked Just Like a Disney Villain

to my son’s friend Mason,
who needed to write an essay on something
from his childhood most frightening,
which was me, with my “long, thin face”
like Snow White’s stepmother or Scar,

my large, piercing, dark eyes, the black
and white beard, deep voice and “that thick
New York accent,” as out of place here
as poor little Mason might have been, nightmarishly
lost on the mean streets of Queens, where I once lurked.

How am I supposed to show
my frightening face any more in this small
town, wondering which present tykes
and toddlers I’m terrifying, which easy laugh
might be mistaken for a diabolical guffaw?

How can I venture to the playground,
the pre-school, Wal-Mart, even, with my pretty
little princess Margaret, knowing the other children
are thanking their fairy godmothers
not to have been cursed with such a sire?

My four children know better; seventeen year old
Joey laughed long over what Mason confessed.
Still, maybe I should just stay inside,
in what will have to pass for a castle,
so I can hoard my true, inner beauty only for them,

like some dragon guarded treasure.

After We Stopped Eating at Tudor’s Deli

because the eighteen to twenty I spent three times weekly
for the two piece chicken lunch with three sides
was money better left unspent, especially since
all that friendly food was rolling me
towards rotundity at a steady clip.

My best friend Lucy, who managed to stay pretty
svelte despite the catfish with sides she favored,
still acknowledged the wisdom of my reasoning,
though she also knew its consequences: it’s never
been the same between us since, a bag lunch

no substitute for the steady pleasure
of a good, warm meal.  Still today I miss
the barbecue baked beans, the Watergate
salad’s marshmallowy green, the conspiracy
between me and Lucy while we both ordered dessert

on top of too much lunch already,
she some cherry cheesecake, me
a chocolate brownie bigger than my hand,
with its genius blend of cakey and chewy,
or sometimes an ice cream cone

reminding me of earlier still,
when Jim Thomas and I each decided
to try the triple scoop option, three different flavors
perched precariously on cones we leisurely licked
through a long summer’s lunch, heedless of the time ahead,

Jim Thomas dead, Lucy crunching rice cakes in my office.

Joe Benevento teaches at Truman State, where he co-edits Green Hills Literary Lantern. His latest of eight books is the chapbook Tough Guys Don't Write (Finishing Line Press). contact