Weekends at Woolworth’s
For $18.49 a week
I got to spend my Weekends at Woolworth’s:
Sundays not included because of the
Blue laws in and around Philadelphia.
Friday nights and all day on Saturday
To avoid a conflict with a school night
And ruin my grades, or so the folks said.
Actually I would have had the choices
Anyway of Penn State, Temple, or Nam.
Mr. Fox, the cool assistant manager,
Told us about his tour of duty there
As we waited for customers to come
And check out so they could beat the traffic.
Heading both ways along Germantown Pike.
Miss Fogg, her frosted blond wig attempting
To disguise her five decades on this earth
Handed out our pay envelopes with cash
And told us where we were supposed to work.
Fridays on the upper level, two men
Regularly bought lots of plastic flowers.
Saturdays spent on the lower level
Talking with Linda from the Ancilla
Domini Academy wondering
If Vatican II would help me date her
And learning men’s wear from suave Mr. Knox.
Friends would stop by sometimes or I would see
Them during my hour-long meal break as
I passed on the 10% lunch counter discount
To head to Sal’s Steaks and Wee Three Records
Who had much cooler albums anyway.
A few weeks after the Mall fire
Water damage closed the lower level
And the upper level became crowded,
A real shambles for the next couple months.
Fully expecting they would lay me off,
On Saturday night a petulant man
Fired me for the inability to remove
Slushy black scuff marks without use of solvent
From the speckled linoleum floor.
Trudging to my Dad’s station wagon as
The first one in the family to be fired,
In adolescent anger I told him.
Dad suggested that the manager
could go to hell; much relieved, I concurred.
Thus ended my last weekend at Woolworth’s.
Observation Point 13, Ft. Drum, New York
Tree stretching toward Canada
Wispy clouds hover in summer sky
Vacationer’s paradise unfolding
Except for the large orange circles
On a small, man-made hill
Surrounded by the rusted wrecks
Or yesterday’s automobiles.
Radio transmissions crackle
Over in the Fire Direction Center
As bratwurst and kielbasa sizzle
Over on several hibachis.
Fire Mission! All human activity stops
As the hundred-pound rounds
Slam into the circles from a distance
Of classified information.
The plates have already been passed,
And as an FM rock station plays “Tommy”
By The Who, the howitzers blast away
At a few more wrecks.
Every shot has been in the box
And everyone his happy.
Like if good on OP 13 as
Lunch continues and I regret
Having taken so long to enlist.
Had I known the Army could be
This good, I would have joined earlier!
People along the way
Going half-way across the country
Thousands of faces flash by
In rest areas, attractions, streets, businesses.
Some of them stand out
For one inexplicable reason or another.
Shuffling from their SUV,
A family heads to the Lone Star
Leaning at the Sabine River Rest Area
Standing in front of thick gray clouds
So they can take each other’s picture.
Far from Hessen, in the Hill Country
German cuisine is served in a frontier house.
For a moment her native language
Floats in the air amid the Texan drawls
As it used to not so long ago.
Praying silently in the cathedral
With arms stretched along the railing
Her daughter converses as well
Discretely, impatiently speaking
Into her I phone.
Couple of our approximate age
Unhappy at everything
She fusses at restaurant hostess
Then unleashes a torrent of spite
At his day-long negativity.
Later I intentionally walk by them
As he slowly eats while she
Sits clutching her elbows
Not even caring to look at him.
From several feet away from the fountain
Tawny-tressed girl and mother standing.
Daughter appears to want a drink but refuses an offer
As her mother expresses her thanks anyway.