Poetry

Losing My Parents in a Small CVS Drug Store

[Margaret Prosser's Clasped Hands in Lap], by Alfred Stieglitz, 1933. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A woman who looks as old as them says try by the toilet paper.
My parents might be the ones stooped over, calculating the price
per quilted sheet.

An employee with an I CARE button, saw them in Greeting Cards,
reading to each other, “To The Best Uncle,” “For The Special Bride,” “Our
Sincere Condolences,” “Congratulations Graduate!”

A man with a backpack, noticed them at the adult diapers, bewildered
by the poster’s question, Are You Chafing? He overheard my mother
ask my father, “Are you?” My father asked back, “Are you?”

The stock boy caught them in the Employee Only Bathroom, admiring
the hand soap and the bathroom spray, Hawaiian Calm.

The surveillance camera shows them struggling between Twizzlers,
Peppermint Patties and the dietetic peanut butter clusters. By the time
I get there, just empty wrappers—so I have the manager

make an announcement, “Attention Michael’s parents—please report
to checkout immediately without rushing too much. Your son trusts you
and wants you to have your independence but he doesn’t want you to miss
Jeopardy.” He adds, “And please remember our annual sale on tweezers
and double-soft Q-tips.”

They move up from Deodorants and Toothpaste in slow motion. Each pushes
a cart for stability. Store workers cheer. Customers clear a path for their carts—
empty, except for his Mrs. Potato Head and her Mister, for which they have
a two-for-one coupon.

“Did you find everything?” the cashier asks. “Did we?” my father asks my mother.
My mother asks back, “Did we?”

Michael Mark is a hospice volunteer. His poetry has recently appeared, or is forthcoming, in the Alaska Quarterly Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Rattle, The Sun, Verse Daily, and Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry.
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