Two Poems by Bruce Morton

Little Debbie Begs the Existential Question

So there it was, the existential question
Of my childhood. Each morning I would answer
The same question—“peanut butter and jelly
Or baloney?” No choice as to bread. Wonder
Bread, no wonder, it was fortified and white.

But the real moment of existential crisis
Was whether to eat, the sandwich that is,
For there was sweet Little Debbie smiling
On a transparent wrapper over a Swiss Roll,
Or Hostess offering cupcakes and Twinkies,
Or perhaps HoHos, Ding Dongs, and Devil
Dogs. These treats, only just deserts perhaps,
Temptations sweet to a fault, enthralled.

Then to go home to the inevitable inquisition,
“Did you eat your lunch?” There it was, parental
Disbelief, as I explained solemnly that I was
An existential victim of a shift of judgment
From prefrontal cortex to amygdala, yes,
That I was betrayed by basal ganglia, and ho ho,
Ding dong, Little Debbie seduced me, I confessed,
Conjuring a sincerity emboldened by surging sugar.


Motel: Spearfish, South Dakota

Early riser that I am
I have risen quietly
Sneaking out of our room
So as not to wake her
To nest in the lounge
Vending machine hum
And paper-cup drip
Of too-hot too-weak coffee
To play my word games
And write about the fat cat
Who has climbed over the front
Desk and up onto my couch
To closely check me out
With a mew of approval.


Bruce Morton divides his time between Montana and Arizona. His poems have recently appeared in Ibbetson Street, Grey Sparrow Journal, London Grip, Muddy River Poetry Review, and Sheila-Na-Gig. He was formerly dean at the Montana State University library.