Grocery Boy

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Photo by Alfred on Unsplash

It’s been ten years since the accident, and now
he’s a grocery boy in an older man’s body,
still dreaming—like any twenty-year-old
before a major head injury would—
of the beautiful women yet to come.
And come they do—to the stocked shelves,
pushing their carts like baby carriages,
strolling the aisles of their good lives.

No stroll for him though—his body
moves, but stiffly, accommodating
his intentions as best it can, as if he
were remotely controlling it for the
first time. But it’s his limbs seizing
the courage to keep moving
that mercifully fires his separate parts
into agreement. Nothing remote about that.

He carries the heavy bags out to the large
shining cars. It’s hard for him to speak
a sentence and be understood, but he tries
anyway: each word fought for, dragged
from the bottom of the laryngeal sea,
while his listeners fish for patience,
a few turning away with quick thanks and
driving off, their own tongues floundering.

He opens his shirt collar: Jesus hangs
from the chain around his neck—
the reason he’s still here, he says, and why
every day is “awesome”—because blue
sky, black sky, brazen eye of summer,
that’s the view the living have, and snow,
rain, wind are all two thumbs up
on the scale of tingling his skin.

With the light of the world glinting
in his eyes and the bleached sands of
his hair, shoring him up against the
cruel twist of the years, he writes down
his number, wants to talk longer, later.
Let the beat go on for the heart
that insists dreams are meant to be
reached for, not shelved.

This poem first appeared in the anthology “Best of Kindness 2017” by the Origami Poems Project. My thanks to judge Mary Ann Mayer and editors Jan and Kevin Keough for its inclusion, and to Kent at my local Safeway for its inspiration and for being such an inspiration generally!

 

 

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