24/7

By Alan R. Shapiro b. 1952
The one cashier is dozing—
head nodding, slack mouth open,
above the cover girl spread out before her on the counter
smiling up   
with indiscriminate forgiveness
and compassion for everyone
who isn’t her.   

Only the edge   
is visible of the tightly spooled   
white miles   
of what is soon   
to be the torn off
inch by inch receipts,   
and the beam of green light in the black glass
of the self scanner   
drifts free in the space that is the sum
of the cost of all the items that tonight
won’t cross its path.

Registers of feeling too precise   
too intricate to feel   
except in the disintegrating
traces of a dream—
panopticon of cameras   
cutting in timed procession
from aisle to aisle
to aisle on the overhead screens
above the carts asleep inside each other—
above the darkened   
service desk, the pharmacy, the nursery,
so everywhere inside the store
is everywhere at once   
no matter where—
eternal reruns   
of stray wisps of steam   
that rise   
from the brightly frozen,
of the canned goods and food stuffs
stacked in columns onto columns
under columns pushed together
into walls of shelves   
of aisles all celestially effacing
any trace   
of bodies that have picked   
packed unpacked and placed   
them just so   
so as to draw bodies to the
pyramid of plums,   
the ziggurats   
of apples and peaches and
in the bins the nearly infinite   
gradations and degrees of greens   
misted and sparkling.

A paradise of absence,
the dreamed of freed
from the dreamer, bodiless
quenchings and consummations   
that tomorrow will draw the dreamer
the way it draws the night tonight   
to press the giant black moth
of itself against the windows
of fluorescent blazing.

Source: Poetry (September 2008).

RELATED CONTENT

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Alan R. Shapiro b. 1952

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Activities, Jobs & Working, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture