The place is really stuffy,
kids crying, pulling at the legs of their puffy-eyed mothers.
The decor is a mish-mash
of things leftover
or thrown away.
Brochures line the walls.
Have you been tested?
Do you know your risk factors?
There are couples with babies,
momma’s with no daddies,
daddies with no babies,
and old people with canes.
There are the crazies,
I couldn’t find a parking spot,
and when I asked the lady behind the desk
she seemed angry
that I didn’t know where to put my righteous vehicle.
I found a spot a block down and around the corner.
I had arrived at eight a.m. to fill out my needy dimensions,
even though the doors open at ten.
If you are lucky, you will be called in the order of which
you stuffed your paper of needs into the slot two hours before.
Otherwise all the good stuff is gone by eleven,
and all you get
is rice, beans, and canned vegetables.
Milk and butter is gone,
maybe some week-old ground beef will be left.
And still, I know that I am blessed
to be sifting through donations
because there are so many who can’t even access such luxury.
Charlie, who is probably eighty-four shows me around,
after threatening to arrest me for being late because of parking.
I watch people take the meats and produce
while Charlie shuffles from aisle to aisle,
trying to show me how to determine how much I am entitled to.
It takes forever, but I follow…
not declined to shuffle.
Checking out involves two of Charlies associates,
relatively the same age,
and I tell them to take a break while I box my own supplies.
To what I discover will be the ultimate humiliation,
they promptly load my boxes into a cart,
and push it right out onto the sidewalk.
For me to roll past numerous coffee shops
and downtown swanky herb shops
custom clothing and photography shops,
two attorneys offices,
and an apartment building.
As I push my loot,
I feel an odd combination of
of crazy shopping cart lady,
and sad victory.
I can feel people looking at me
as they sip their latte’s.
My cheeks burn as my cart snags
on a crack in the sidewalk.
I wrestle it free, and push forward.
I don’t care what they think,
and at the same time I pray
that no one I know drives by
or wants to go to Carlos’ One Night Stand to buy a custom made wig.
Four years ago, I bought a wig for Halloween from that shop.
I could afford it.
Thankfully, my van looms in sight
before one of my fellow workers,
or friends can discover me.
I throw the boxes in the back,
there are no cracks in the sidewalk worthy of stopping me
as I return the empty cart.
I had decided not to ditch it a block and a half from it’s home,
even though I had wanted to be rid of it.
As I drove home, I wondered something that brought me some perspective.
I had been humbled and humiliated,
but I hadn’t compromised my self worth.
I could drive away and still look myself in the mirror.
I thought about some of the women I know,
the ones who see a much different face in the mirror….
made up and fixed for viewing pleasure,
what can be used to put food on the table?
I’d push a cart around ten city blocks
before I would do time
on sniffer’s row.
I wonder what it is in a woman
that makes her decide what is right.
I have been submitting my poems to dVerse Poet’s Pub Open Link Night for a few weeks and have really enjoyed the experience of reading others’ work and getting feedback from them. This is my submission for Week 97. I know it’s long, thanks for reading!