Friday Poem of the Week: Ode, Intimations of Mortality at Wal*Mart

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Pushing my shopping basket like some sort of consumer battering ram,
I am cruising the produce aisles at the local Wal*Mart Grocery Center,
Alert for bargains but, more than that, alert for other pushers of other carts
Who might do me harm. Don’t laugh: one of those things can wreak havoc on an unsuspecting shopper
When it climbs up on your Achilles tendon or smashes into your vulnerable rib cage.

I once had a runaway cart take out a taillight. That was an expensive trip to the grocery store.
I figure I’m safe in the produce aisle from the worst of the kamikaze shoppers
But I will have to make a break for the checkout soon. I watch for a break in the flow
Of other shoppers and, seeing one, accelerate into the open space
Right behind two citizens pushing a giant cart laden with all manner of junk foods
Procured from further back in the store, hard by the doughnuts and giant bags of candy.

They are, to put it kindly, on the large side, and as we creep along like ancient glaciers
I find myself wondering about their life expectancy, with that much extra avoirdupois and more to come.
Their lives will not doubt be shortened by what they eat, and, judging from an occasional hacking cough from first one and then the other,
They must be smokers as well. Their slow pace tells me their lives are trifectas of poor nutrition, lack of exercise and destructive habits.

We’re all ships passing each other in tiled channels. Coming toward me, a couple about my age, sails along, trim and fit-looking, but also with anxiety written on their faces, wondering if they’re in the right place.
I want to shout at them “Run! Turn and run while you still can! There is still hope for you!” but I don’t, only continue on my slow way along.

Next in line, a mamacita with a brood of chattering ninos. I wonder what their lives will be like. Will they always be lean and small and quick or grow up to be like my friends ahead of me?

The portly couple bears off to a register, and I steer for the express checkout. So virtuous am I, with only one item, I am checked out and through the sighing pneumatic-electric doors into the neon haze of the parking lot.

I have learned much this evening, about what to do and what not to do, and wonder where all of us are headed in this giant shopping arcade of living. I remind myself that I need to eat right, exercise regularly, give up unhealthy habits.

And, by God, I’m going to do it, starting

Tomorrow.

–Dan Verner

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