by William Doreski
In the mournful supermarket the meat looks stripped from auto wrecks, the milk has yellowed to sulfur, the baked goods could anchor yachts. I browse with an empty shopping cart while people around me, still panicked by the recent plague, snatch up canned beans and packages of dry pasta. I want to find something edible enough to sustain me through the threatening weather already pouting at the windows. I need rolls or buns and condiments spicy enough to disguise the taste of whatever dead creature I fry in my cast iron skillet. Rats scamper under the produce bins. Their tails dangle like earthworms on rainy sidewalks. They are the only fresh meat in sight. Behind the deli counter, the butcher snarls like a chainsaw. He wants to know why I’m disdaining his cold cuts. Pressed ham, roast beef, olive loaf, turkey, and chicken. Because they look like the plastic food you see in cheap restaurant windows. Because they ARE the plastic food you see in cheap restaurant windows. He doesn’t deny it but wonders why I think plastic food isn’t good enough for me. I would rather buy one of those slabs of cannibal meat and cook it on the gas grill outside where the stink of death can dissipate. The butcher wraps a shapeless blob and flings it into my cart. I selected a package of stony rolls and head for the checkout line. Already some people have been waiting so long they’ve skeletonized. I wheel around their cobwebbed remains and out the door. No one calls after me, no one tries to stop me, the weather booming in the parking lot loud as an empire collapsing.
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William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. His most recent book of poetry is The Absence of Marie (2021). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals. Website at williamdoreski.blogspot.com.