It Was Summer, in the Mini-Mart

Steve Abbott


Back when my wife still smoked, she asked me
to pick up a lighter for her on my way home.
July was coming off the pavement in waves,
the convenience store AC on the fritz and the line
curled around the salted peanuts and beef jerky
oozed a surly impatience that sent tremors
down the candy aisle strong enough to rattle
bottles of cheap beer in the cooler. The snip
of clipped phrases peppered the sole clerk—
“Jackie,” her badge offered—as her fingers
and their chipped pink polish clawed change
off the counter or pointed to the swipe machine.
By the time it was my turn, her eyes floated
somewhere between despair and rage, mouth tight,
sweat aglow on her face in the fluorescent light
as if applied by a mister. When I said lighter,
her hand froze in its stretch to the rack behind her
as she sighed What flavor?
———————————–There are days when
the script seems already written, every nuance
of timing nailed in place by endless rehearsals,
each moment unfolding like a rose or tulip.
No hiccup of hesitation broke the action as
I said Cherry and without pause she swept
her arm like a ballerina and whirled, a red Bic
clacking on the counter. Her expression released
a light of revelation, a wave of wonder
known only to mystics or the young in love.
I know I imagined the swelling of a string section
in a bad movie as she flashed the only smile
she’d offered the shuffling line of six-packs,
whispering as she took the money, You played!


Steve Abbott’s poems have appeared in Rattle, Connecticut Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Chiron Review, among others. He has published five chapbooks and two full-length collections, A Green Line Between Green Fields (Kattywompus Press, 2019) and A Language the Image Speaks (11thour Press, 2020), 46 ekphrastic poems accompanying the artworks that inspired them. He has co-edited three poetry anthologies and also edits Ohio Poetry Association’s annual journal Common Threads.


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