26/30: WHILE SHOPPING AT H-E-B
by Zachary Caballero
A little boy walks by the orange juice,
proceeds to shout “Dad! We NEED Orange Juice.”
A little boy walks up to me while
I confirm the integrity of the eggs,
his small voice grows beanstalk raises to my ears,
his face at my knees asking,
Are you a stranger?
I look at him, grab my eggs,
whispering back without a crack,
Let me enjoy the mystery
I’m disappearing into the bread aisle
where everything rises, turning sharply
to look for candles, I nearly hit an older man
and I apologize, say,
Sorry Sir, I was coming in hot.
He apologizes back, adds in,
I was like that when I was your age,
I lose my breath at his sincerity,
the ever fond reminisce happening
in aisle six. But before I leave,
I say to him,
Well then, I’m in good company.
Then I abscond onto the olive oil,
soil of my growing appetite,
my absolute delight, the effortless
sweep of the wrist when I’m
cooking with rhythm,
and what are you
but another instrument?
look at all I can do with
a bottle of you?
Parts of you needing me,
me needing you, yes,
this constant need
to invite others in
has become such a gift.
When preparing to examine the apples,
an employee grabs each spoiled, rotten
apple and tosses it away, and I think
how hard of a job that can be.
Who is to say what is unworthy?
But he moves with confidence,
rubbing his hands across the
jazz apples, honey crisp, pink lady,
gala, granny smith, and he is making
my life so easy, it’s lovely. I’m so tired
of picking over the dead, of losing before
I even begin, and I am more thankful
for him than I’ve been of myself.
What’s with this strange history of mystery?
After I’m done marveling, I ask of him,
Are you tossing out all the bad apples?
He doesn’t say a word, just keeps tossing apples
and I think this has something to say about
the invisible work most people do,
the kind of effortless
that took so much effort
to perfect. I mean, to me—
this is a miracle, and honestly,
Who am I to deny the gospel
of gathering all the bad apples
which just happens to be
happening in a grocery store?