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ISSUE:  Winter 1992

It’s late, after dark
when I pull off the interstate
at an unfamiliar exit
and have to drive for miles
to find anything open,
then an old supermarket,
from the fifties, dingy
and small, and the people
pale and poorly dressed,
coming straight from work
on Friday night, doing
their shopping for the week;
the lines are long and slow,
even the express lane,
and the hourly wage
goes so fast. Watching
a couple bag their groceries
and load the cart, their kids
squirming and fighting,
I see the sadness of money
cross their faces like
a shadow with feeling,
dignifying their tiredness
the way sudden sunlight
on old boards, on tools,
abandoned, worn by use,
makes them beautiful,
triumphant. No longer
in a hurry, standing
among strangers, suspended,
momentarily rootless,
the only stranger there,
drawn to something hidden
under the lights
exposing pores and calluses,
veins and bones beneath the skin,
something that escapes
(like the soul
on the dissecting table)
as I hear myself thinking
I will never return here,
but I do, again and again.


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