Tom C. Hunley


Listen to the audio version read by Sean Mahoney.

My son has fallen in love
with King of the Hill.
Hank sells propane and
propane accessories,
he tells me
for the hundredth time this week.
I laugh like it's the first time, say Yep,
tip back an imaginary Alamo beer.

You sell poetry and poetry accessories
he says, and I laugh for real.
And people with no sense say people
on the spectrum have no sense of humor.

He's having more trouble with
"That's What She Said."
How was school today?
That's what she said.
Have you fed the dog?
That's what she said.

For some reason this upsets me.
I tell him it's only funny in context.

I show him the episode where Ben Stiller
guest stars as the voice of Rich,
a new Strickland Propane employee
with a potty mouth: I need an 8-inch L-pipe.
That's what she said.
I hope this drill has enough juice for the job.
That's what she said.

My son gives me the same lost look
my college freshmen get when we come to lines
like "making the beast with two backs."

I collect myself.
Son, I say. I don't care if you never understand bawdy humor.
Or why I like metaphors so much.
You are the one program I could watch all day
without changing the channel.
I just want you to be happy in this life.
That's what she said
, he says,
tilting his head in his mother's direction.


Tom C. Hunley is a professor in the MFA/BA creative writing programs at Western Kentucky University. And expanded second edition of his textbook, The Poetry Gymnasium, will be published by McFarland in 2019. In 2021, C&R Press will release What Feels Like Love: New and Selected Poems. Hunley's AWP panel, "Neurodiverse Verse: Poems by and about People on the Autism Spectrum" has been accepted for the 2020 conference.