Evening Rush at the Safeway
Humming along with the Muzak,
I check my list, scan shelves,
and navigate the floating
archipelago of grocery carts.
An eggplant’s funhouse sheen
lampoons me into child-like
embrace of the eternal now,
which lasts until I see
a pouting girl in the next aisle
defy her mother’s “No!”
by hugging a box of cereal.
Wheeling my cart into a line
at the registers, I bump it — just barely —
into a frail-looking old man
who cranes to face me, nodding,
smiling my pardon as I apologize.
His short, swept back hair
looks fluffy as down; the collar
of his shirt spreads gull wings
against a blazer’s blue sky.
His dazzled gaze turns away.
I watch him watching the world
it takes all kinds to make
lined up behind their provisions
impatient to get home and eat.
Everyone looks edgy except him.
It’s then I notice he’s not behind a cart.
The magazine he’s holding must be an excuse.
He’s here just to take part, to see
and be seen, maybe even touched,
if only by accident.
A toddler seated in a cart beside us
can’t take it anymore and begins to wail.
The old man looks down at him,
grinning like a crazy drunk or saint.
The boy, sniffling, calms,
stares up, amazed by the gargoyle.