Put that on Lesley’s tab, jokes the mayoral candidate
on line in front of me at the supermarket, waking
me from daydreams about a free-range chicken
roasting at home, good bread and arugula. I laugh,
ask if he’ll be watching—his own debate is soon.
We exchange words, each coin stamped with accord
about the world and passed back warm, until he
wheels off. My turn. My soon-to-be chardonnay
and garnacha, six bottles for the discount. The cashier
surprises me, too. Who do you think is going to win?
Temporize: The town hall tonight? He pauses to key
in cilantro. Sure. My mother taught me good manners,
meaning no religion, no politics, meaning smile,
meaning make people comfortable, never hungry,
never ashamed. My books taught me to speak up,
that one person’s comfort is costly to someone else.
And isn’t civil silence also disrespect? So I answer,
Well, I keep waiting for Trump to cancel it, he’s had such
a bad weekend. Slow and calm, moving granola bars
across the scanner, a substantial man, he returns,
I don’t think so. Now we are both trapped in a relation
that serves neither. Troubled, perhaps he’ll be in
trouble with his manager, anyone could hear us.
This worry gnaws me, but other teeth sink sharper
and I insist, He said such terrible things. The cashier,
to his credit, does not shrug. All men talk like that,
he insists, all men but God, and next I know I’m
defending men, not all, I know men who are shocked,
as if men need my comfort, and perhaps John sees me
then filmed by a bubble of womanly innocence,
the soap sheen reflecting protective dollar signs while
also mirroring with distortion his own face. Kroger card?
he asks and sorry, sorry, I answer, dictating my digits,
inserting a silver card in the chip reader, paying
with imaginary money for actual food, wondering
which of us ought to be kinder, knowing his feet
must hurt, his hands look raw, but feeling like dirt,
like a pussy to use Trump’s word, to be grabbed or
judged not even worth grabbing, disgusting forked
breastfeeding bleeding holder of unwelcome opinions
as I take my wealthy self back to a job where I serve
women and men who at least pretend to value me,
although I don’t pretend to know what that’s worth.