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.