Three Poems

Present At the Conversion

I spoke of it at school with nuns, that desire
To have been there when Saul fell from his horse
Or just off his feet, kicking against the pricks,
And righted himself as a new man who would
Persecute no more.  I prayed to be like Paul,
To ride my bike on that road to Damascus, give up
The ways of the flesh, become remarkably new, 
And found at work, at twenty, an analogue, an echo,
When, after three years of stocking, checking using my fingers
To press keys in and ring the tiny bells
Of subtotals and totals, they told us we would put away
Our childish ways of squirting blue ink into pads
For stamping prices onto cans, we’d lay down
Our price guns and never call to each other again asking
The price of the stray unmarked milk or packaged ham.
Our right hand would know what our left hand was doing,
Just lining things up to scan, the conversion
To UPC labels so quick and thorough some of us felt
We knew what a new life would feel like, in fact
We were already living that life.  I can still remember
The assistant manager’s smile, never seen before,
When he explained how inventory would be taken
With a wand, and for weeks felt that anxious joy
That arrives, unannounced but felt, in times of transformation,
Feeling blessed to live in times of supermarket change,
Not dreaming that in twenty years, one could swipe
A debit card and punch in code for an entire belt-load
Of bleeding meats, sea-salted chips, locally harvested yams.



Our town has a microbrewery located
Just thirty miles due west, where growlers are sold
Alongside bait and tackle, a haberdashery
For baseball caps and chew, plastic-wrapped porn
Just out of reach by the cashier’s hair attack—
A teased-out pompadour followed by great plains.
I ask about the difference between bock and lager
And he points to the colors on his vest—one stained
Spot bock, the lighter patch lager.  And the price?
We don’t got the liquor license yet to sell right here,
But we distribute
.  But I read in the Urban Times—
The Urban Times don’t know shit.  I agree with him,
Smile my teeth, and he hands me a free tract
On demonology, saying, This is what you seek, my friend.


Hell and High Waters

How often is it that he can’t recall if he’s taken his pill
To start the day, the one to clean the body of triglycerides
Somehow, the one that says this run-of-the-mill
Dude shall not die just yet, he’s not yet over the hill
At all, he’s not ready for that long, dark ride
In death’s carriage, he’s ready to explore the new mall
And its Jockey underwear, toys, gourmet pepper mills
And cheese rounds, he’s still man enough to raid
His own wallet for the thirty-percent off sales,
And just as Odysseus might tack or trim his sails
To avoid outcroppings and Sirens, he steers clear of the staid
Calendar shops and Christian bookstores, turns tail
If he sees someone from work he’d like to strangle or maul,
Preferring avoidance to jail time, and suddenly finds
He has no clue where he’s parked the car, the thrill
Of good buys having overtaken his mind, stands still
In the 40-acre outlet parking lot, feels the tide
Coming strongly in, overtaking him, he tries to stall
And then gives in, his face covered in a fine, new caul.

—Kevin Boyle, Elon, NC