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It's Later Than You Think, a poem by Michelle Brooks

It’s Later than You Think
by Michelle Brooks

There is the reflection of a rainbow
in the Rent to Own window, and puddles
have formed in the holes dotting the parking
lot, the water streaked with rainbows made
of gasoline, and I try to remember what I need
for tomorrow’s work party as I roam the Dollar
General. I grab a bag of pretzels and think,
This is my dinner and all the while, other lives
play out around me. A teenager tells her friend,
I can’t believe Halloween is tomorrow, and I don’t
know what I’m going to be. I wasn’t anything last
year. A man asks his wife, Do you think the rain
has stopped? She doesn’t look at him, only
says, I sure fucking hope so. It’s depressing.

After loading my basket with paper plates
adorned with skulls and witches, I get in line,
looking down while the young couple in front of me
buys a pregnancy test and a bag of Cheetos,
the woman counting out change from a tiny
purse embossed with stars. The cashier, a middle-aged
woman with Bitch tattooed on her neck asks me
if I found what I needed. I nod and say yes, thinking
does anyone? The cashier leans close, warns me
that a man has been following me around the aisles
and asks if I want security to walk me out. I thank her,
saying I’ll make a run for it, as I gather up my bags.
The rain has started again. I glance back, relieved
no one is following me, noticing the sign festooned
over the door, Spooky Savings Inside, as if I wouldn’t know.

Michelle Brooks has published a collection of poetry, Make Yourself Small, (Backwaters Press), and a novella, Dead Girl, Live Boy, (Storylandia Press). She says she spent a summer in Gary with a now ex- boyfriend. She says she loves Gary, even as the boyfriend did not fare as well. A native Texan, she has spent much of her adult life in Detroit.