Poem for Passing Encounters at the Grocery Checkout Aisle

after D. Bonta’s “Poem for Display at a Police Checkpoint”

The cashier sporting a nose ring and Kiss Everlasting French Fake Nails cracks her gum every few seconds; her high ponytail bobs as she flips through the a three-ring binder and its plastic-covered product list pages. Finally she asks, What’s that?— pointing to the 4 small purple potatoes I’ve placed on the counter. After I tell her and she rings me up, the young man— most likely a high school or college student working through the summer— bags my purchases. Paper or plastic? he asks, and I say Paper to Jihad, for that is what his name tag says. And I know that his name might mean either a holy war or the struggle of believers in Islam to fulfill their religious duties or to make believers out of their enemies. But I do not think there are any mujahideen here, no children running through the frozen food section with homemade bombs strapped under their vests. A couple of men are buying lottery tickets in the corner, and it’s true, no one ever seems to buy any of the exotic imported fruit marked at ridiculous prices. The deeply sun-tanned man in the aisle next to us hefts two six-packs of Dos Equis into his cart, and whistles as he moves to the exit. When he passes I read Alma y Luz tattooed with roses on his right bicep. Behind me, a couple of local firefighters are waiting their turn with a cart full of pork spareribs, lean ground beef, and barbeque sauce. One of them picks out a foil-covered piece of candy from the rack near the gum and magazines. What? he says to his companion; I love Cadbury Creme Eggs. And his friend says Whatever, man and laughs.


In response to Via Negativa: Poem for Display at a Police Checkpoint.

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