I remember the first time
that I heard the word California,
first time that I knew I’d heard it.
It was an adjective, on a menu,
describing a hamburger.
This was in the dank winter—
in Philadelphia, at a diner—
formica, fluorescent, steamed windows.
I was seven or maybe eight years old,
which makes it roughly 70 years ago,
and it was magical
that someone had thought to insert
lettuce leaves and tomato slices
between the meat and the bread,
cold plus crispy and juicy.
And I thought what creativity,
this is a whole new way to live:
a place so rich in salads that it
could even add them to hamburgers,
bringing their bright greens and reds
to the dun roll and the dark patty
on the heavy white plate
alongside the golden fries.
That life could be like that:
with no boundaries
and no inhibitions
and even before I took the first bite
I knew I wanted to live there forever.
Marty Krasney’s poetry and short stories have been published or are forthcoming in Apple Valley Review, Areté, Courtship of Winds, Innisfree, El Portal, Euphony, Evening Street Review, Frost Meadow Review, MacGuffin, Marlboro Review, Missouri Review, Mudlark, The Round, Thin Air, Tricycle, and Witness, and he has completed a novel, The Bees of the Invisible. He has studied writing with Richard Bausch, Patrick Donnelly, Lynn Freed, George Garrett, Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman, Edmund Keeley, and Tom Mallon. His long and varied career as an organizational executive culminated with ten years as the founding executive director of Dalai Lama Fellows, a global network of contemplative, young social-justice activist leaders, based since 2018 at the University of Virginia’s Center for Contemplative Sciences. Marty’s previous work includes having served as the program director of the National Humanities Series, the first director of the Aspen Institute Executive Seminars, and the founding president of American Leadership Forum. He was director of public affairs at Levi Strauss & Co. and director of executive education at ARCO. Philadelphia-born, he was educated at Princeton, Michigan, Stanford and Harvard Business School and has lived since 1983 in Sausalito, California.