The Book Store

No vacuum can suck the smell
of wasted youth from this carpet. Homeless
men gather in the history section until Steve,
the manager, calls the police. I was in a band
once, he says as he watches the police herd
them out. They come back, when he’s not
on duty, and shit in the urinals.

People leave their children
for hours in the Kids Books section.
An old lady forgets her adult diaper
and fills the coffee bar with the tang
of her urine. I watch Rod chase her out
one door, she circles, comes in the other side
while he isn’t looking, and goes back
to her dampened seat.

We are all stoned or in grad school. Customers ask,
What’s good to read? We say, I don’t know. Books
are like hamburgers or anything else. Moving
your add-on quota is the key to being a Supurb
Salesperson. Nevermind the fifty cents
above minimum wage you’re making,
the lack of insurance; cover those rotting teeth
with a lip and a smile. Come in early for Team
Meetings, sing the store song. Never read
on register.

I watched a part-time preacher sell a bible
and a Club Card to a homeless man
to make his quota. You could learn
a lot from him, Steve said. He’s the best we’ve got.

—CL Bledsoe, Glencoe, MD