498: Owed to the 99 Cent Store

498: Owed to the 99 Cent Store

498: Owed to the 99 Cent Store

Owed to the 99 Cent Store
by Joshua Bennett

Read an automated transcript.

You are a kind of utopia,
you know. God’s garage.

magic, how you tug
on a dollar bill
until it becomes an open

field, how you mock semiotics,
offering products which often
belie your professed mission,

your wondrous intentions,
all these too-expensive toasters,
fragile dishes, ironing boards

that make Mom appeal to American 
Express as backup, her escape
route from unplanned shame.

You ain’t have to do us like that.
But I peeped game, I know you
just like everyone else, hoping

to hustle your way off
this ziggurat block, all these
poor folks stacked on top

of one another like tropes.
Your true currency
is the cheer of children,

the love of learners
under duress, black or white 
notebooks I still call upon

in hopes that these,
my most harried dreams,
might have rest, shelter

when smartphones give in,
fading to moonless wan
like everything else

around here. You persist.
You tenacious meditation
on excess. You candy bars 

& batteries when pilot
lights kissed us no more
& Swedish Fish 

were the best high we know
or could afford.
You smorgasbord.

You sweet ecology.
You philosophy of boys 
that have not yet learned

the wiring of value.
You neon name.
You anti-nihilism.

You clarion call 
to the righteous
singing come fill

& be filled

"Owed to the 99 Cent Store," by Joshua Bennett from OWED by Joshua Bennett, copyright © 2020 Joshua Bennett. Used by permission of Penguin Books.