Physiography

The woman in the checkout line
is taking her groceries out of a cart.
Ahead of her, a man who could be
her son, hair also greying at the temples, 
hefts the larger items onto the counter:
packs of bottled water, a box 
of navel oranges. When she touches
his shoulder to say she would like 
to pay, the ovals of her nails shine 
like nacre at the ends of gnarled
fingers. Perhaps she's held jobs
requiring the constant use of hands:
typist, stenographer; cook, seamstress,
factory finisher, welder. Perhaps their blue-
veined maps were merely inked by a lifetime 
of domestic labors, a lifetime of smoothing 
the creases and soothing the burns 
of everyday life for others. That he gently 
pats her hand and gives the cashier his card 
for these transactions is simply what it is,
as well as the whole world. And how,
exiting the store, the one that goes ahead
used to be the one that followed 
or only walked beside. 

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