Happy Meals & Unhappy Times

an abecedarian
(interrupted by two nuggets / two fries)
on happy meals & unhappy times
/ what happens when mcdonald’s nuggets are nothing
more than a reminder that lists (& life) often turn on a dime
# not.the.best.day.ever

and just like that, the formerly closed, no longer for sale
book (mostly hardbacks on loan with soft cover graphics) of
childhood (claims of innocence/clocks on youth) –
days spent playing whack-a-mole and hide-and-go-seek
evenings waiting in a booth at the back

/ threats of paddy whacks
bathroom doors blocked
and locked (nugget #1)

eating over-processed happy meals (half-dozen nuggets) that
failed to nourish (fries perpetually limp / sauce sour) is back. laughing at
guts that rumble and grins that fail to convey genuine delight / both
hot like under-cooked hash brown potatoes (two for a buck) and
icy like the mcflurry that fails to delight. head honchos must be
joking, does corporate really believe that
kickstarting a campaign laden with heavily
laminated (designed by a company named cactus plant), limited-edition
menus turned merch (sweatshirts and coffee mugs) amidst
newly designed (hawaiian punch no longer of much appeal),
over-inflated (alongside salt and red dye)
puffed, pricked, and primed (airwaves eager to publish),
quick-tricks (bargains tossed of kaleidoscope eyes) and
reminiscent picks (sticks and stones / legs to stand on) at
sales (limited-time offerings) simmered by streetwear brands
/ toys included – a horrifying random selection process

/ with promises of
grimace, hamburglar,
birdie, or cactus Buddy /
all faces scorned, turned
(nugget #2)

upside down wouldn’t prompt a widespread frown, at the
very (very) least / all stereo volumes in surround sound
wouldn’t it be nice to warn (big macs rarely warm) / no bells, whistles, or
xylophones, drive-throughs, or counter bells needed / and allow
you, if not me / if not us (grimace as worn as a birdie),

some peace, quiet, and distance
from the fuss,
fictional land of happy days
and childhood make-believe
especially when there are a
zillion other things (fry #1)

/ zebra-striped skirts, zombies, zoom calls, oh my!

that demand
    our attention
    and deserve
    our affection
    / need i list
    the reasons why
    not everyone needs
    to revisit the
    childhood land of make-believe
    but simply a reminder
    that birds of a feather
    flock together
    / happiness can’t be bought
(fry #2)

About the Poem

Because I know I can’t be the only one for whom childhood and the possibility of a happy meal were days neither happy nor divine.

About the Author

Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, works, and writes in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania.

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