The Freezer Section of the Walmart in the Third Ward
With freezer door open and bags of crinkle cut fries
in my hands, deciphering ingredients my mother
would shun if she read them, I keep losing focus
for the child one aisle over, crying, because her mother
tore from her hands a box of Jolly Rancher Pop Tarts.
(I know this because she screams–Jolly Rancher Pop Tarts.)
I recall brand names of products I never needed—Star Wars
Episode III Anakin figurine with detachable hands
and waist; Nerf Foam Flight Football whose little holes
would whistle when thrown from oily fingers;
the toy I received instead, my favorite, black barbie doll,
whose name I never learned, with a sparkling swimsuit,
appearing on contact with water. My grandmother
gifted her to me, my favorite doll, professional scuba diver
like my mother wished to be. Years later, embarrassed,
I donated her to charity for fear of childishness, for fear
of never finding another with whom to interlock fingers,
drive with windows down, smelling fresh air off fields
in towns with names that we don’t know. Tonight,
outside of Walmart, my car windows rolled down, all I smell
is smoke from the cigarette of the man on the stop light’s curb.
He argues directions with a man not there. Across the street,
behind chained fences, a game of pickup basketball.
Their hoops have no nets, the concrete is cracked,
and players insult, or encourage, one another, with 5’ 1”, air ball,
adopted, until we all return to reality together, hearing
the gunshot echo off the trees and small houses around us,
and I notice the stop light has been blinking red for minutes.
by William Littlejohn-Oram
from Muzzle Magazine, Winter 2021