“Retail” by Michael Diebert

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Michael Diebert

RETAIL

A pox on the mall. We got by
on meager praise and preening egos.
Those insidious fluorescents

made dismal the cool summer blouses,
dulled the gleaming chrome toasters.
It was a paycheck, it was a place

to get out of the heat.
We were nice to the nice customers,
nicer to the jerks. I wasn’t that nice,

or kind, or helpful, to anyone.
Mothers ignored their hellcat kids
pulling dresses off the hangers,

laborers lampooned us in Spanish.
I ripped twenties from leathery hands,
gave change grudgingly,

smiled and Windexed the shelves.
In the food court, next to the waterfall
and the merry-go-round,

Alicia and I vowed we would quit.
Then we closed the lids on our leftovers
and went right back. Muzak

followed us like a mutt.
When some dumbfuck wanted to try on
fifteen pairs of running shoes,

we hustled into the stockroom
and just stood for a minute,
breathing in the new leather smell,

the smell of fresh America,
of marathons not yet run,
breath filling us, though fleetingly.

from Rattle #34, Winter 2010