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By Brian McCarty
Many places could qualify--
pharmacy drive-thru: shelves inside stacked
with late-night binges, relapse, easy fixes, sexed-up
opiates and sweaty pre-packaged gusts
of the psychotropics;
we drive away wearing side effects like dandruff
into the dystopic neon prophylactic of a distinctly
Small town bar: slouched forty-something singles
perform reverse geniis into bottles as they recall
venereal heydays amidst perfume poltergeists and cigarette
ghosts; an arthritic beer sign calcifies would-be
come hither glances as woman with guitar on corner stage
pleads her case through strained cords for watered-down 80s rock staples
that drowned in the 90s.
Pawn shop: encased exhibits of families gone belly-up;
we prod the entrails of failed love stories,
browse meticulously stacked pit stains, fool’s gold, aerobic VHS cassettes,
“I’m with Stupid” index rubbed away through repeat cycles,
decomposing dictionaries and car part manuals thicker than Bibles.
One can see one’s whole childhood
amidst the tables and shelves, Mount Rushmore cozies and mounted deer heads--
the florescent lights stalk their eyes with a 3-D effect
that mimics the opening moments of the afterlife.
Surely we’re at our most natural at
the all-you-can-eat buffet,
Moo goo gai pan or skanky pepperoni slices, taco bar
or chicken with the fixins
on an Oklahoma Main Street that took a wrong turn
at a Yield sign in the 1970s.
Styx hisses through static-y speakers.
National anthem, the baritone gurgle of arteries
wavering between picketing and slamming
Main Street storefront shut.
I like to think of menus as the atlases
of the culinary world, and plan the scenic route
from this table blotched with condiments
and the natural oils of prior patrons
to complications of my pre-existing conditions.
I like to steep in cheap preservatives the way my Southern Baptist forebears
basked in hellfire,
before they trampled the plains in sedan caravans
to throw pebbles at the Left Coast crowd.
in lieu of wildlife we grease ourselves,
snarl at the camouflaged family in the next booth.