Oyster Boy Review 11  
  April 1999
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» Levee 67



Steve Campbell

I don't know exactly what it is about Freshfields
that sets my teeth on edge.
It's the same feeling I get sometimes
walking into a store at the mall.
Someplace, oh, like Nordstroms.
Sales Associates work there.
Not old ladies chewing gum,
wearing smocks with name tags
never seeming to focus their tired eyes.
Maybe it's their prices.
Those beautiful vegetables—
Nature's jewelry store with ruby peppers
and emeralds everywhere.
Imperfections, the mark of authenticity.
Pesticide free.
Nature's bounty, and it is beautiful.
It's just that my head messes with me.
Occasionally out of the corner of my eye
I catch some Sally Struthers' poster child watching me
as I try to decide what water to buy.
Watching me as I squeeze the Vermont brautwurst and try
to decide what curry sauce would go best with the
fresh New Zealand lamb.
I catch myself thinking that the organic canned cat food
might be a good buy, should I slip back a few rungs
on this economic ladder I so precariously cling to.
Maybe it's all those years of cornbread and linoleum.
Making just enough to eat one meal a day of starch
and tomato sauce.
The look on the cashier's face at Safeway
the first time I used food stamps.
Or that time at my first AA meeting when
I mentioned that it was a choice between being there
or selling all my belongings, taking the $200.00
and going to Florida and being puzzled by their laughter.
Maybe it's the people, everyone blowdried, their clothes all
properly labeled.
Checking the ingredients with the same studiousness they must
use to check the progress of their mutual funds every morning in the Post.
Just another part of their program of keeping an edge.
Perhaps its just envy at what I imagine their life to be.
Or an echo of the days, when I, homeless,
would stand on some dark street corner
looking in at the lights of their houses,
wondering if I was ever going to get in
and what would I do if I did?