R. Miller CC
Tammi Calls from Walmart
She must have her headphones on,
I can hear the background music
and other shoppers and her cart
with a bad wheel that rattles
and follows her through the aisles—
maybe vegetables, or frozen dinners,
easy to cook—soon, eventually,
all her husband will be able to eat
is mashed potatoes or Mac & Cheese.
I listen to her doing the things we do
and call living—dish soap, maybe socks--
surely alcohol. We talk like we are good
at ice skating—straight sentences push us along
evenly, or accidentally aim us
right at her husband’s ALS diagnosis at 53.
I can’t even believe what’s normal now,
she says and we are through—wet, struggling--
our street clothes pulling us down—our hair plastered
to our middle-aged faces and I have to try
to fish her out, make a joke as I pull and tug
her back to Walmart, to the cart
with the wonky wheel, my only tool
my voice and decades of story
between us. Of course all loss is speakable
if you learn—or remember—how to surface.
Blue sky or cloudy, it doesn’t matter which, not really,
just that it’s still there, holding
for now—and anyway you need groceries,
dinner, someone has to mow the lawn,
wash the car, tell the kids.
I don’t know how but I’m doing it
she says from self-checkout,
scanning erratic beeps
and I know I’m a hindrance now,
say, I’ll call again soon, feel that woozy sense
I’ve known so often lately like a thin place,
maybe the top of a mountain—the air there,
the view, and all around me scattershot
of boulder, cloud and tree—
that steep ongoing Wild.
A Presbyterian Walks into a Crystal Shop
My friend listens to stones,
says they choose her--What do you want,
she asks and I don’t know--
I am distracted: rutilated quartz,
aquamarine, selenite, jasper, amethyst,
tiger eye--What do you need?
she asks as if I know.
I squint and bend and almost kneel
to read each worn-eared cardboard sign:
clarity, peace, prosperity, balance.
Eventually, I shrug my stone-filled hands.
She studies my clutch, bites her lip,
replaces one, then two—
This one’s better, she says, adds tourmaline
and goldstone. For protection,
and strength, she says, sure of it.
Usually I just pray, I joke out loud
but even when I pray I half
imagine God’s side-eye
for not doing it right—my dull thud
of Dear Father for solidity,
a place to start. Words like protect,
forgive, surround, heal—
all small and weighted,
tumble out my mouth into one day’s end
and the next--
it’s not that nothing is beautiful
just that so many things are:
all these crumbs
we hold too, all we try to gather--
our usual words
that sound like questions, or the answer
you pretend to hear
when a friend hands you a stone
lit through with stardust
and says it’s just for you.
Rebecca Brock’s work appears/will appear in The Threepenny Review, CALYX, Mom Egg Review, Rust + Moth, Whale Road Review and elsewhere. She won the 2022 Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial Poetry Contest at The Comstock Review, judged by Ellen Bass, and the 2022 Editor's Choice Award at Sheila-Na-Gig. Her first chapbook, Each Bearing Out, is available from Kelsay Books. She is a reader at SWWIM. You can find more of her work at www.rebeccabrock.org.
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