“Microcosm” by Jeff Vande Zande

Jeff Vande Zande


She starts the engine, wanting
only the air conditioning.
He unloads their shopping cart
into the back and then slides
in against the scorching seat,
grips the wheel, and watches
her finger skim the receipt
until she finally announces
that the store didn’t charge
them for the table lamp.
They both turn around
as though to check a child
strapped into a booster.
It’s there. And, it’s theirs.
Crystal base. Beige shade.
They tingle with chemicals:
norepinephrine, phenylethylamine,
dopamine— the same blend
of neurotransmitters that fired
six years ago in the stretch
of their first extended kiss.
It’s not until miles later,
when normal levels return,
that they turn to each other.
She begins with the rumors
of child labor overseas,
while he explains how
places like that always bully
their way into towns
with promises of low prices,
and they’re both soon nodding
to the idea that all of this,
the unaccounted parting gift
of a sixty-five dollar lamp,
this rare olly olly oxen free,
is exactly what a store
like that deserves.

from Rattle #31, Summer 2009

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