about time

A mistake 

brought me to the grocery store

at dawn's break.

Newsreels, infection rates,

ICU lineups and long waits

meant that online purchases ain't efficient anymore.

Delays were imminent.

But I hadn't noticed any of it.

My virtual cart could be picked up a week from now,

but we were out of milk somehow.

So that guy seems real upset pacing up and down

the sidewalk, shaking his head, making me anxious-

posing in front of the exit, waving his arms like hailing a cab,

and spitting mad.

Barking to no one and everyone in line,

his muttering distractions made eyes look to mine.

The guy steps in close- litigates and reiterates-

'guess 8

o'clock doesn't mean what it used to be.'

My watch showed 8:03.

And i could see

inside the store, employees stacked, cleaned, and chopped.

While outside, a small clutch of early risers wonders about when they can shop.

8:05, the door opens.

A teenage gatekeeper struggles to smile and says 'cmon in'.

As the line files through,

some offer clever counsel at the indifferent interloper who

listens patiently to

the grumbles of 'next time' and 'my time' and 'wasted time'.

Those chronic rhymes

are a clear sign

that time

really is not what it should be.

But the thing about time

is that you have to stall on a fine line

and that essence

to feel any ownership of the current tense,

means noticing that as the staff member scrolls backwards, i stroll forward fast

into my present and by then i am already in her past.


from across the aisle i hear rapid percussion. a dull downpour. the grocer, a kid, maybe 16, hefts a wax coated cardboard box to eye-level and tips it forward with the precision of a dump truck. a red onion rolls past my toe. it disappears under a shelf. lucky bugger escaped, i think to myself. 

a memory surfaces of potatoes bouncing into a blue milk crate. crickets and cicadas cut the air into high pitched rhythms, pulses and sustains. my babcia's humming and muttering setting a tempo for the beat. once in a while she glances over her shoulder, eyes the crate, then me, then the crate, 'potrząsnąć'-she says. shake it. the contents roll around each other, some leap headlong tumbling into the dirt trenches at my feet. 

now, i imagine the relief of their roots reconnecting with the dirt. a moment of communication, reconnection. 

then, i just wanted to get the job done as quickly as possible. scooping them up, stealing their hope and sealing their fate, before she noticed. she glances again and i know i have to shake them again. 'cichy' -gently, she reminds.

he watches me for a really long time. i work in gridlines. left to right. top to bottom. i wonder if he wonders what i am looking for. one by one i check, and pile, and order and categorize 100 avocados. i know what i am looking for. uniform brown skin, soft crown and bottom, a slight give to the flesh, a green seat under the loosened stem.

even a potato deserves dignity. it demands an understanding. she understood this.

he doesn't.

i pack up my brood and mention to him that an onion escaped under the shelf. 'no problem, i got it' -he says. i pay and as i pass out the sliding doors i can still see the onion sitting motionless in hiding. the young grocer has moved on to the next aisle likely forgetting his promise.