Fridays at the Farmers Market

My first stop is the coffee roasters,

where I am beguiled by names like Coconut Caramel Crunch,

Snickerdoodle Dream and Maple Macadamia Nut

though I gave up drinking flavored coffees years ago.

I settle on the Ethiopian Mocha Harrar, even as Anna,

the teen behind the counter, tells me it’s bitter

when I ask her opinion.

“But my mom likes it. She makes it at home.”

Me, I simply love the sound, Ethiopian Mocha Harrar, exotic,

brimming with richness, so I am off, with a half-pound

just in case Anna is right,Ā  gliding into

the orchestrated sprawl of cheeses and freshly cut meats,

honeys and handmade soaps and vegetables

bright and crisp in their earthen coats.

I buy a spread of salmon from Carla, a best-seller she promises

will turn any cracker into an extravagance, and though I almost breeze past

the seafood company, a single shrimp, its plumpness perched

on a tiny fork, reels me in.

It isn’t long before I am considering crab cakes and lobster bisque

and the jovial roundness of Mike, who lets my name

sail off his tongue when I hand him my card, marveling that anyone

would flatten its softness with a long “a.”

At the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern stand, I am fairly giddy,

my gaze roaming over baba ganoush, moussaka, ground chicken

spiced with molasses and pomegranate, cubes

of feta tossed in creamy spinach.

Nine-five percent of it all is gluten-free, I am told

when I ask if the falafel owes its texture to only chickpeas.

Seconds later, Ali is trying to ply me with free pita bread

if I buy more than a pound of palak paneer.

He laughs when I remind him of his short memory and we pick up

the rhythm of an easy banter until he has a new customer

and I walk away after pressing my palm into his.

Everywhere, I look for a name, ask for it, roll

each one into a smile.

I am lavish with my gratitude, swollen with praise.

But my habit is not rooted to this oasis.

I am fervent with Hector, the bank teller who talks

about his large extended family and the dinners that spill

a weekly colossus of chaos and joy,

and with Rita, the postal worker who I greet like an old friend

though I want to cut her off before her requisite litany.

“You know there is nothing hazardous or perishable

in here. First class will suffice.”

She calls me bub, waving to me whenever I walk through the door.

It’s as if I’m running for office, stumping some

essential truth with every hand I shake, every sliver

of some other life

I slip into my own.

Today my mom tells me it’s been two months

since her friend’s daughter went missing.

No one has heard a word.

My kickboxing instructor took her mother to the hospital.

Doctors misdiagnosed a spot on her lung, and four weeks later

she was dead: stage IV cancer.

I think of the father who shot himself after turning his gun

on his family, and the ravaged grandparents, left

to the inconsolable,

of the rampage at the mall and the movie theater,

of time sliced away in a single brutal sweep.

Mine is a song I must trill.

I call them by their names: Mike, Hector, Ali, Rita,

Anna, Jameel, Marvin, Shondah, Lizanne.

In their presence, I pocket the small sun of a smile,

bend toward a blade of laughter, threading kindness

like a charm

so if the train derails or the bomb blows,

if the body is a hidden rupture of cells,

we will make our exit

with music

still in our ears.





10 thoughts on “Fridays at the Farmers Market

  1. Incredible, so incredible. I just wanted to jump into your words and through you every delicious interaction that is life. Delicious, all of them. Such a gift to see the bounty and love amidst the trials and pain; the juxtaposition of life.

    Liked by 2 people

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