Empty Cart

by Pablo Beimler

I open my fridge sporting a T-shirt, sweats, and a morning sigh.
An unruly yawn follows as I contemplate the task ahead.
Dreading the endeavor of the supermarket trip.
My eyes can barely even handle the light from the candle I have lit.
And now the rows of florescent light bulbs illuminate and aggravate and agitate
My walk through the industrial, monotonous aisles.
I push my cart forth with one of its wheels trying to make a run for it,leaf
The other three laboring to stay in unison.
A clink and a clank on a railroad track
And the cart decides to idle before I attempt to stop it.
My body jolts
And bumps up against the handrail that houses every bacterium known to man.
I release my hands from the Safeway sponsored Petri dish,
Avoiding the sudden urge to make a clean break to the bathroom to wash my hands.
My hands reach instead for the freezer door and thus begins a game of tug-of-war.
What a sight to see!
One man, arms yanking at the door, fingers sealed tightly around the handle.
The door holds a superior seal.
My body flies back, the door swings open and at long last its contents are exposed
To the sounds of the latest Top Forty hits.
I can’t bear to watch the items suffer such cacophony any longer
And I slam the door heroically.
Why did I even bother to enter such a grueling tug match?
I abhor microwaveable pot pies let alone this entire place.
A kick and a push and a couple of angry grunts and away I go with my clunker of a cart.
I stop behind an older lady who is stooped down at the bottom shelf,
Filing through an array of olive jars.
She must work here, I presume.
Who else puts in such meticulous time and effort perched in front of a sea of olives?
I tap her shoulder, inquiring where I may find tahini.
A strange request she makes it seem.
And even worse, she is not in uniform.
And worse, not at all an employee.
Apology…not accepted.
Olives are the focal point here.
All careful attention returns to the selection ahead.
A decision that spans over nine Euro countries,
Each jar traveling longer than I ever have or ever will.
Shame that its resting place should be this God-forsaken land of hormone-induced milk
And sugar-added honey.
Ah yes, sugar.
The drug of the masses. Exists en masses.
In almost every bottle, can, carton, box, and jar.
An epidemic certainly,
A diabetic frenzy,
A callous heart-wrencher.
And yet I fiend.
I fiend for every last drop.
I rush down the candy aisle avoiding any sudden stop,
For that means the end to all diligence.
Every Crayola-colored packaging imaginable flashes by me,
Splattering my pupils with Red 40 and Yellow Number 5.nana
They have achieved Jackson Pollock’s wildest dreams,
Or perhaps nightmare.
For every colorful package is stamped with an obnoxious corporate label.
My cart remains empty and my stomach even more so.
I yearn for summer and the return of the farmer’s market.
My choices there would extend to its furthest reaches.
Tomatoes of red, yellow, purple and green,
Each housing its own personality.
And of course they’re own stories.
Each handpicked not by the claws of machines
But by the gentle, callused hands of the warm-blooded.
Each traveling a single night towards its destination
Rather than a fortnight or two.
Each holding within them the elements of a soiled past;
Soil that in itself holds eons of history as rich as its contents.
The supermarket works to eradicate every bit of history from its long aisles of produce.
Not a trace of soil can be found.
Soil is equated to dirt and thus to filth and thus to a decline in sales and profits.
I do not feel rooted here.
There are no farmers to reach out to,
To wrap around like a vine in warm embrace.
To thank for their hard labor and genuine stewardship.
And simply for their company and their stories.
And so I walk out through the doors that operate without any human contact.
How fitting!
My cart bares only a shriveled leaf of lettuce left behind by its previous owner.
I bid adieu and park it amongst its dilapidated crew.
No bags to carry, no arms to grow weary,
A stomach that growls for sympathy.
It shall have to wait for this moment of resistance, protest, resilience to pass.
For now, my spirit lightens and my mind is at ease.
I can last another day with leftover heirloom split peas.

Pablo Beimler puts out fires with his sweet, sweet verse.