Staring at sourdough bread on the counter. Left it there
so the people I bring home would think me mildly tangy
and a little bit common, rightly so, and also they’d know
my social circle regularly includes yeast. The big, bold loaf
is fated to battle decay in my kitchen. Now it’s 5:04pm
and I’ve waited out the day. Time to fantasize.
There’s a knock on the door and it’s a delivery man.
He’s sopping wet, it’s been a rainy century, and he looks over
at my sourdough bread. I ask him what he knows of decay.
The delivery man says my mother has dementia and I shut up.
He says she thinks I’m Rob Lowe and now I want the fantasy
to stop. The delivery man says the funny thing is, I always wanted
to be an actor. Okay, I can still save the fantasy. He’ll come
inside and read to me. He’ll have a leading character’s
baritone voice, I’ll hear that voice and know what it is
to be fair and unguarded. I’ll be crying by the end
and clap clap clap clap clap. But before we get to any of that,
the delivery man says well I better go, mom loves Taco Tuesday.
I say: but it’s Monday. He shrugs sadly. The fantasy
has gotten away from me again. The delivery man leaves.
I’m trying to grasp a crucial lesson.
(I Ask Too Much Of) The Substitute
I went looking for your love and found
an empty shopping cart instead. This will do
for now. (It was that or a mangled grocery bag,
sure to be rescued by the wind
any second now, free of me and my reach.)
I’m wondering at the radius of each:
your love and the shopping cart.
Which of them travels more miles over a lifetime,
I can’t say. To its credit, the cart is more discernible
in its efforts. It feels so good to get a hold of the cart,
to experience it shudder in my hands, to circle
the parking lot under a sun that likes how we look together,
or to lead it up and down the aisles for forty minutes,
its body between me and the world, or to let it lead me.
The cart learns to take corners slowly. It understands
an ambush. It doesn’t understand disguise.
It knows rhythm and pace. It senses
the days I’m shopping as an adult
and the days I’m shopping as the fourteen-year-old girl
who truly believes macaroni and cheese will make it all better.
This is my cart and I’m desperate to show it off. I will point
to the load this cart is carrying, which is far greater than groceries.
See? I whisper to the cereal boxes and bread-buyers
and weary cashiers. Even with all those holes,
this cart holds what I need it to
when there is too much of me in me.
—Published 25th of August 2022
About Alexa Garster