Meijer After Dark

This is one of my rare free-form poems, and is 100% autobiographical. Meijer (pronounced My-er) is our local one-stop shop for groceries, back to school supplies, clothes, whatever. Think Wal-Mart, only nicer… but it does give off a slight vibe of despair when you’re there after 9 p.m. or so, which I do on average about every other month.

Meijer After Dark

Originally written February 23, 2016. #116

Meijer after dark
always speaks of despair
where the downtrodden singles go
to buy our high-lactose milk
and the tiniest bottles of bulk honey
that will sugar long before they are used,
and we find ourselves again
at Meijer after dark
to buy another bottle—just a spot for our tea.

We shuffle around,
heads bowed, praying to the laminate gods
that we might remain, scuffling, unseen.
We are shy, unassuming.
Here’s a cart: Oatmeal, bread,
a bag of apples and a banana.
There’s someone, sneezing:
In her cart, only Campbells, and Nyquil, and Vernors.
There: college students.
You can tell by the fact that
they’re laughing and talking
in this cathedral of bulk peanut butter
and frozen peas
and silence: the currency
of those who go shopping
at Meijer, after dark.

There is solidarity, too,
with that very young family
dragging kids along,
who should have long gone to bed.
They too, perhaps, are congregants
At the church of routine
where daylight’s for errands
and the evening stars for hobbies
like Netflix or night clubs.
No: Here we are, pondering
the savings of twenty cents
on this brand of mechanically-separated tomatoes
or that one
and whether we’ll ever go
through that much ketchup on our own.

We are the claustrophobic ones.
Our minds need at least three rooms to spread.
We cannot dare let people intrude
with their Certified Organic shopping carts
or their rowdy children, secretly fueled by Lucky Charms.
No, Meijer at night is for the furtive
who don’t want people to judge us
by the contents of our carts.
We want to merely come and go
And dream we could be Michelangelo.

Or perhaps it is merely me,
despairing in my disorganization,
shopping by memory, my list lost,
and knowing it makes no difference
to anyone but me
if I forget the cilantro for my soup.
The moon is full, and I am alone
shopping at Meijer after dark.

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

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