Viral Two-Step by Julie Gard

Self-checkout means no interaction, but I bring my own bags and it throws things off and the cashier has to come over. And the two-for-one vitamins don’t show up and the cashier has to come over. She does this all day, less than six feet, an essential worker on minimum wage. I am jittery with the keypad, trying to find cantaloupe and it’s not in the C’s in the scrolling menu. Where is the goddamn cantaloupe? Her bangs are long and straight. We move toward each other and then away.  I don’t want to give it to her, whatever I might have. I don’t want her to die. I don’t want my students to die, who are right now scanning other people’s food. The technician at Jiffy Lube has me stay in my car and his face says, I have to keep working. His face says, I don’t know. All the faces on Zoom say I don’t know. The epidemiologist on the podcast doesn’t know. I don’t know is the weight of an extra can of kidney beans. I don’t know is the crack down an empty street. Only the birds sing all day. They’ve got this.

Julie Gard‘s prose poetry collection Home Studies (New Rivers Press) was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, and other publications include Scrap: On Louise Nevelson (Ravenna Press) and two chapbooks. She lives in Duluth, Minnesota and is Associate Professor of Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.

Photo by Jen Theodore

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