Donut Shop

Terence Culleten 

In the dream you’re an off-duty cop

at a counter holding up a cruller

as the waitress pours your coffee.


It’s late, the lights flicker, the whole

place is like a power plant, the way

it just keeps buzzing. Seems you two


are the only ones awake anywhere.

On the wall is a poster of a boy

gorging happily on a donut,


a jelly, looks like, from the stains

around his mouth. Waitress says:

Say, honey, why do you hold


your cruller up that way?—What

way?With your pinky raised?—Oh.

Jammed it. Breaking up a fight.


She sashays back to the burner.

What she’s going for, you think, is a big

fat tip. You say thanks, thanks, even


before (too soon) she’s back:

Top up? Then: Listen, honey, did

their vorpal swords go snicker-snack?


—Yeah, well, cut me pretty good,

Took a selfie. See? You show her.

There’s blood, all right.


Want the last donut? Just

have to toss it. It’s a jelly!—You

like crullers, really, not jellies,


but she brings it and you

hold it a moment, pinky raised,

blue ring, red stone, nail ruddy


as a rosehip button, knuckle

a plush puff pastry of skin.

Bravo Maestro! La-di-da!


Can I be your Lady La-Di

Ga-Ga?— Of course, you’ll tip her

after all that crap about a fight


and her calling you Honey

and now this donut—playing which game

is easier than explaining why


you eat with your pinky raised.

It’s only in your dreams, and, besides,

that isn’t why you came in here.


You came to live outside

your uniform awhile—she’s hungry

for the same damned thing.

A Bucks County (PA) Poet Laureate emeritus, Terence Culleton has published poems in a variety of reviews and journals in both the U.S. and the U.K., including Amherst Review, Alabama Literary Review (forthcoming), Birmingham Review, Cumberland Review, Edge City Review, Modern Poetry Quarterly, Orbis, and others. Mr. Culleton’s third volume of poetry, a collection of sonnets entitled A Tree and Gone, is now out through Future Cycle Press and has been featured on the New York Review of Books Independent Press “New Releases” list. It’s available at or through his website: