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One day my american dream dropped

On the floor near the eggs and ice cream

while driving from Philadelphia to

Colorado. I had barely started when I

stopped at a 7-11, the convenience

store that seems named by marketers  

for its throw-the-dice association with craps

and its subliminal rhyming with heaven. 

The name strikes me as a fairly accurate

stock of working for a living in America,

this country of theorists and pundits

and sociologists and heroin addicts

and poor mothers on their stoop,

all of them defiant of dreams dropped

on them like hopeful bombs.  

The day I stopped mine, I was wondering

whether to have a bad coffee

and a snack cake, because I was on

the road and there wasn’t much else around. 

Why don’t convenient stores

have any place to sit? I am a ‘to go’

soul, waiting to pay, sitting in an 

an 1993 Subaru  

at drive thru window. 

I can’t remember if this was outside Sandusky

or on this small route in North Carolina.

It just reminded me of this roadside stand

in the middle of India. It’s hot and humid.

The tiny woman behind the lime green counter.

Her hands flitting over seeds and soda.

The bottles have names I can’t read

and the piles of cigarette boxes look like

heavy cargo ship containers waiting for a tide.

And colors sitting on the shelf behind her

orange and brown sari: lime, tangerine,

grape, sitting on the shelf, waiting for

something historical to happen.

But what happens is a baby, and this man

with a squinted eyes and lines on this face,

smelling of cigarettes smoke and distrust,

sitting on a stool behind the woman,

mixing formula, shaking the bottle,

and then tilting it into the kids mouth,

and paying no attention to what might

happen in some future, but feeding

it nonetheless, priming up the new

first steps of leaving this place for

some other place where it all could

be different, where some fortune

is waiting, some ability to learn

computing or customer service

or how to make sneakers and soles.

He held the bottle and read the paper

on the BJP party and war in Kashmir.

The voices in my head are not my own,

the voices of anchormen and politicians,

the voices of Harvard Business School,

the sound of a semi on an interstate,

the rattling mud-covered pickup truck

ambling down the side

of an agri-business field,

the farm loan database servers in banks,

calculating percentages of interest

on millions of mortgage accounts.

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