Poem #17 Milk

posted November 20, 2018


We needed milk this morning
So I put on my coat and walked to the Zee Mart
Assaulted on contact by the smells
Of fried chicken, stale gasoline, old boxes

Rows of vapes and ciggies
Scratch tickets and Doritos

Almost everything sold in this store
Is addictive and useless
Anything worthwhile
Is cheaper somewhere else.

But Firuzeh is behind the counter
Grey-eyed, in a grey-sweater,

I ask how her morning is so far,
She says, “Cool,”
With all the glorious disaffection due her age.


She fingers her scarf
Ignores the men scratching their Reno cards
At the make-shift café
She has created for them in the corner.

Though I haven’t yet asked,
I imagine
Her father came
From the crags of Persia.

He has the same grey eyes
Worked perhaps as a doctor, schoolteacher
Village elder in his old country
Now makes sure the diesel pump works
Orders the Pepsi, the condoms, the Snickers bars,
The milk.

Once I argued with him about my debit card charge
He patiently explained the retractions and returns.

I bring the milk to Firuzeh.
“You might want to exchange this,” she says,
Dangling the half-gallon on her index finger.

“It’s already expired.”
I thank her, and find a better milk,

Leave her my change and head home
Wondering, as I carry my purchase,
Whether she dreams in Cyrillic
And if it was difficult to learn to read
Left to right instead of right to left.

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