In this plastic bayou we’re not customers,
we’re guests. POPEYES GUEST 138,
YOUR ORDER IS READY. Guests, yes,
but also numbers—we’re not in Panera
anymore. The tenders are best
at their thinnest, turn floury at chunks.
The green beans swim in salty goop,
which explains the sporks. A sign
on the wall says “over 300 years ago,
seven distinctive culinary traditions came
together to create THE uniquely American
cuisine.” I take it they mean the chicken tender.
When it opened here, Popeye’s needed
a rent-a-cop to direct drive-thru traffic
as visored employees clipboarded the line.
Tonight is calmer: quiet zydeco burbles
punctured by a manager who aced whatever
training session covered authoritative shouting.
Something in the book I’m reading makes me
miss Aunt Pat. When she was alive, I was
picky. A strict chicken tendertarian. I wish
I could explain to her that I like fancy
restaurants now, like she did, that I’m sorry
I dragged her to so many Burger Kings
and Popeye’s. And I do. But here I am,
still Popeyes Guest 138. These are the places
I actually went with her, not the places I wish
I could’ve. Aunt Pat had good taste,
but what I thought was good
was good enough for her.
Address: 2560 Iowa Street, Lawrence, KS 66046.
Eaten: 5 piece spicy tenders meal with green beans and Diet Coke ($9 something)
With: The poet, alone
Why: Between errands and selling books at an offsite reading, a quiet moment to sit in the corner booth, watching the sun set behind the American Family Insurance, and read the end of Hanif Abdurraqib’s They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us.