Walmart Public Service Announcement

Watch video at YouTube.

This year for Christmas, I got
a pair of jeans pre-faded to gray:
as if to compensate, the linings
of the pockets are solid back.
My hands feel clandestine going
into them. It’s a soft cotton, not
the kind of thing you expect
to find in jeans, & I worry about
my hands in there. They might
decide to come out only for
the handshakes of investment bankers
or the fur of certain cats.

Like the jeans, this quilted shirt
was made in Bangladesh, where last June,
child workers from the garment factories
protesting for decent wages
were beaten by police wielding
bamboo staves & fired on with
tear gas & water cannons. In the photos,
they appear to be wearing only
flimsy t-shirts & faded saris.
I wear a quilted shirt all day long
to stay warm in my frigid house —
the oil furnace isn’t cheap to run.
“Save money. Live better,” as
it says on the Walmart sign.
At least 58 people died in fires last year
at Bangladeshi garment factories,
unable to escape because the exits
were blocked. If you see
something suspicious, alert
the manager, Homeland Security
chief Janet Napolitano urges
on video screens at 600 Walmarts.

And then there are these new slippers
from my niece: a size too big
but so what, I thought, they’ll get me
to the bathroom & back. Ah,
but the soles are filled with viscoelastic
polyurethane foam, so plush, &
the toe-room is so ample, my feet
luxuriate, even begin to yearn
for feet of their own
that they could wiggle & stretch
& never, never send to the store.

(Written with this week’s Big Tent Poetry prompt in mind: “write something with feet.”)


Tell Walmart to stop exploiting Bangladeshi workers.

12 Replies to “Walmart Public Service Announcement”

  1. That video is creepy. Do they really show that in Wal-Mart stores? I haven’t set foot in one for over a year (though my husband goes, so I’m not innocent).

    The poem is great– I love the cat fur too and the feet who want feet of their own — but I do think there’s a little bit different tone in the second stanza.

  2. Thanks to all for the kind words. Sherry, the video is for real! But I don’t know if our local Walmarts are among the 600 selected for first deployment. I haven’t seen any screens in the checkout lines, so I guess not.

  3. read aloud, this is even scarier than read silently. very well done. very important to get this public service announcement out there.

  4. Nice work. This really works well at making a very powerful point with wit, humor and grace.

    I had to smile at the notion of the hands only coming out for certain cats, not just any cat. How important our comfort is to us.

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