Pizza Hut, 1985

On Saturday nights dad held the door for us
and the Pac-Man console called out with its frenetic
beeping, chomping ghosts hoping to evade capture.
My sister and I would take turns playing while waiting for a booth.
The ghost world of Blinky, Inky, Pinky and Clyde
was one world inside another, a place to begin
as the air conditioning chilled our bare arms and sandaled feet.
Dad sometimes played too and we stood by to watch
as his towering frame leaned over the console like a red-faced,
brooding giant from one of our Ronald Dahl books.

At the booth, our red, 24 oz plastic cups resembling
Depression era glass arrived filled to the brim with crushed ice,
Pepsi fizzing across the top somehow never watered down.
Those first sips lit up my throat, carbonation brought tears
to the brink of my eyes, then retreated.
Mom headed to the salad bar where she’d fill a small plate
even though a large plate was the same price.
My sister and I sat across from each other and colored
paper place mats, listened to the cavernous oven doors
echo each time they closed, stared in awe at the tower
of empty pizza boxes near the cash register,
soon to be filled with gooey cheese pies and make journeys
into the neighborhoods we came from.

Our parents did not laugh together or hold hands at dinner.
Saturday nights were no reprieve from their long silences.
But sometimes, dad would color with us, draw funny hats
on our favorite Care Bears characters. Sometimes mom
would eat a whole slice of pizza along with her small plate
of sad lettuce and canned beets. Dad would pinch our cheeks
and beat us at Pac Man and his triumphant grin meant
at least for tonight, he was right where he wanted to be.

Ode to the Big Boy Hot Fudge Ice Cream Cake in Troy, Michigan

For my daughter, Teagan

For $3.99 we made a summer night of it, headed to Big Boy
on West Maple in Troy, our hair still wet after washing the lake out of it,
wanting something sweet after burgers and dogs on the grill,
needing some space from your brothers and your grandmother.
The Big Boy statue, a child balancing a triple cheeseburger
on one hand, stood frozen in 1940’s slicked hair and checkered jumpsuit
where it’s been since 1948, a landmark for Detroit-area, sweet tooth pilgrims.

We always ordered two. Not having to share was important.
Two squares of chocolate cake, warm all the way through, each one
thick as my wrist with double scoops of vanilla ice cream sandwiched
between them, just starting to seep into the cakes’ deep pores
as the cook poured hot fudge onto the whole glorious mess.
The lone Maraschino cherry perched precariously on top, dribbled
its pink juice down a cascading, tower cloud of whipped cream.
In every bite, we had everything we wanted.
Outside, the sun simmered down against the rooftops
and we’d try to guess who lived in all of the houses we could see.

In the summer of 2016, I didn’t know it would be the last time.
I didn’t know that by the next summer we would be mourning my sister
and her son, that it would be too painful to go back,
that we would never return to Michigan as a family.
The picture I took of you at age ten, hugging the Big Boy statue
became a relic. Every time I organize photos and come across it,
I ask if you remember our trips here, the hot fudge cake,
the red and white checkered plastic plates, the backs of our thighs
stuck to the vinyl cushioned benches, how you’d always manage to finish
your entire dessert even when you were five years old.
How we always knew that those ten minutes after the waitress
placed them in front of us would be the best moments of the day,
would always be all ours, would always be enough.

Hymn for the Chocolate Croissant at Scratch Bakery

I sneak out of the house early on a Saturday morning
just as the trees start to etch themselves into the sky
turning cornflower blue, flour white around the horizon.
The world, keeping its promise to peel back the darkness.

When I arrive, the bakery plays its symphony of oven doors
opening and closing, baking sheets sliding into carts,
paper bags rustling, filling up with the day’s orders,
the sound of raw dough slapped against a wooden block.
Lines not yet forming, sweets already rising.

Some days I sit in my car outside the shop
so I can begin the morning alone, hold something
soft and fresh in my hands, take decadent communion
before meeting the world on its terms, before sharing
what I have with my family, before offering myself
to the God who keeps himself close but out of sight.

Prayer finds a way. Buttery flakes glisten on my hands
even after my mouth is empty.

Joan Kwon Glass is the mixed-race, Korean American author of NIGHT SWIM, winner of the 2021 Diode Editions Book Contest, & is author of three chapbooks: HOW TO MAKE PANCAKES FOR A DEAD BOY (Harbor Editions), the micro-chapbook BLOODLINE (Harbor Review) & IF RUST CAN GROW ON THE MOON (Milk & Cake Press). She is the new Editor-in-Chief of Harbor Review, a Brooklyn Poets mentor & poetry co-editor of West Trestle Review. Joan is a proud Smith College graduate & has been a public school educator for 20 years. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in RHINO, Rattle, Diode, The Rupture & many others & have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize & Sundress Anthology Best of the Net.  She grew up in Michigan & South Korea & lives in Connecticut with her family.