Rusty Barnes

Peter’s Super Beef

The man at the counter barks
my order to the grill guy in Greek,

as I wait for my chicken parm
sub and some fries. Peter’s

Super Beef is packed with dinner
orders to go, working class to the hilt.

I’m forty-six and I look like a college
poofter compared with the muscled

guys making their way in here for
cheese steaks and onion rings.

I like to grab my shit quick and eat
at a table near the tiny rest room

where I can watch these workers
with their t-shirts and dirty jeans

standing three deep at the counter
talking about the Pats game,

still in their hard hats and tool
belts. They all remind me of my

old man washing the grease off
his hands with Goop and getting

a beer out of the Coke machine
at work before driving me home after

baseball practice. I watch one man
in particular–his hair in a jarhead

buzz–order a steak bomb,
not the way my old man got

it at home with onions on his
Minute Steaks and plastic-wrapped

cheese. It’s 1977 all over again,
except I paid for my own stuff.

I get to watch as these men
bond over the greasy food.

I think of my old man this way:
alive, with dirt under his nails.


Rusty Barnes lives in Revere MA with his family. His work has appeared in many journals. His latest book of poems, from Nixes Mate Books, is On Broad Sound.