When I was a boy, several smartypants
Wise-cracked about my name: “Bracker
Want a cracker?” Hey, Brackercracker!”
That did not bother me, because they
Were not meanies. And I wanted to be accepted,
As all of us did, in junior high. Nine years later
When I went to R.O.T.C. summer boot camp,
A dude from Georgia named Pitts was our “character.”
I remember that once between classes he jumped up
On his desk, let loose a fart, and loudly yelled “Gas attack!”
At that, I was what some parents back then called
“Mortified.” But I envied his popularity, for
I did not do well in boot camp, did not fit in at all.
After five weeks I was so unhappily stressed I determined
To go for the first time to the club Friday night,
Where most of the others were. There, on purpose, I drank much too much.
I remember ordering a pink lady, of all things!
Then I returned early to the barracks, definitely beyond tipsy.
Almost everyone was still off-base, in town. But not Pitts.
He was sitting in barracks flipping through the pages of The Saturday Evening Post.
Inspired, I stumblingly called, “Hey, Pitts, what are you doing?”
“Reading The Saturday Evening Post,” he replied.
It took me only a moment to think of the perfect rejoinder.
Drink-inspired, I let it out: “Pitts, any man who would read
The Saturday Evening Post would . . . screw his own mother.”
Pitts stared at me, as close to aghast as folks from Georgia
Get. Later that night, he told the others – I know, because
From then on, I was more or less accepted
As not such a sissy after all. Strange, the things one does not forget --
And all because my last name rhymes with “cracker.”
Poems by Jonathan Bracker have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry Northwest, Southern Poetry Review and other periodicals, and in eight collections, the latest of which, from Seven Kitchens Press, is Attending Junior High.