In Flight Over the Atlantic, After
a summer of pushing carts
in a searing parking lot,
of making special every guest
who happened through my checkout lane:
one person, i asked how their day was:
terrible. her mother had long been
undiagnosed, and recently told
the family. hospitals thin-out once
highway names become letters and
routes: NN, S-road, 13.
the newest medical center, a stone’s throw
from my work, was state of the art, supposedly.
this guest, L, was sleeping at a motel
close by. she was buying pants
at my work, i’m an actor, the
perfect employee—do those comfort at all?
do they hold up the line?
will her experience in this moment
at checkout lane 7, route M,
make her forever loyal to a bullseye brand?
the pants were to keep her mom
comfortable at last, L said
at work, i’m also human—does a
discount help? should i still a-
ttempt to sign her up
for a store card?
how many identities have been
stolen through this system?
i ask questions and sometimes people
answer without names or numbers.
a tornado siren barrels into the store,
but our carts are still in the lot.
someone’s gotta go get those
a manager yells at the cashiers.
five days before I leave for berlin
i finally spend time with my mother.
at 2:30 a.m.
i drive her to the emergency room.
3 and a half hours is the most
spent with her this summer, except
mostly i was in the waiting room,
waiting to leave, purchase some pants
in the checkout line, L’s debit
card was not accepted.
tornados have touched down
and discounts always seem to help.
By michael e woods
michael e woods is a Midwest poet and journalist currently based in Chicago where he’s beginning an MFA at Columbia College Chicago and finishing his poetry and prose memoir Escaping Independence. The manuscript earned him Highest Honors in English at Vanderbilt University, which also awarded him the Merrill Moore Prize for Poetry in 2015. Some of his most recent work can be read in The New Territory, Eclectica Magazine, The Nashville Review, and Five 2 One Magazine.