Somewhere in the mountains is a Gulf sells: Chargers, rhinestonelighters, trucker’s speed, cowhide keyrings, pinespray, bugwipes,sheepsgut, pizza, earplugs, pigears, asswipes, camo-condoms, toyguns, ciggies, icebags, horselips, stickers, blackcats, jesusbracelets, cameras, eagle sweatbands, postcards,aspirin, permits, & organic pumpkin seeds. The clerk behind the counter’s old as: Walking forty miles to work,sci-fi stations, Burma Shave ads, up by bootstraps, Jell-Otossed with hot dogs, silk socks, boarding house gazettes,pinochle, lobotomies, washboards, Jim crow, pettingparties, stealing melons, sneezing wheat pennies intowhite handkerchiefs.
Screwed to his checkout is a new touchscreen with boxes, so
patrons weight-in, real-time, e.g.: Does this clerk smile, clean up
good? & does he ask if you need add-ons: “Nascar cap, miss?”
“K.Y. Jelly?” Does he slap you five, or fist bump:
“Thanks for coming”—does he otherwise solicit interesthis cockring?
He’s Bangladeshi, Tennessee—
Jamaican accent, graying, hip
hurts where he soldiered
grandkids, need swing
shift, fry cook, perfect
jeans—which reminds me,
let’s play a game: We’re cousins. You get drunk, sleep in mybathtub, we’ll make out. Let’s play Amish. We’ll hoe tomatoes,
if they die you’re fired. Ok, now you’re bossman. I get five
bucks if I wear a mop wig, but I have to lick the toilets
if I can’t turn profit singing the Bad Boys cop song inpiglatin every time a customer says “howdy.”
Let’s play in the Gulf between the artificial & the genuine:
Have I stood straight for this portrait, have I let my real self like
a seal turn supple in the Disney pool of: May I kiss your prettycufflinks? Have I sparkled for as little as is possible to pay me— doI tattoo, bleach my own roots, don’t you motorcrossto see me in this zoo as if I’ll piss into the register ifyou’re not there to urge me,
gently, not to?
The gulf is such between us, watched & watching—let’splay gracious: Sakes alive.
Let’s play felon—Rate
Jane Springer is author of two collections of poetry, Dear Blackbird, and Murder Ballad. Her honors include two Pushcarts, an N.E.A. fellowship, and a Whiting Writers’ Award.