The Bodega of Last Resort
The corn gods are well represented
in the heaven implied here,
and you wish to kindle all these votives
for petition or appeasement
of other powers holding sway in this place:
Linden, Cane, and Panax Ginseng.
A theory of surplus value
gleams like a nimbus about the register.
Overripe hosannas rise from Produce.
And if you do not hit your number
there are many other numbers,
brightly colored, to choose.
(All numbers support projects of the state.)
You do not always know
that you are coming here.
It is as if the hours, by a declivity
too soft to notice, tilted toward this place,
whose lights spill into the street
through a rainbow of pint bottles
open all night.
Young cat used to teach here:
Chinese guy: philosopher with a freak-flag pony tail.
Kids were apeshit about him.
Thought he was Lao Tze with a side of fries.
This was the nineties
when the whole tattoo thing was starting:
suburban white kids going to Bucktown,
getting drunk and inked.
Come back feeling all badass.
Lot of them did Chinese characters:
Peace under the chick’s hair
on the back of her neck sort of thing.
Kids would bring them to him:
Look, Professor Yeh, it means Harmony.
Cat would just poker-face them:
You better watch out you don’t get the guy who knows Chinese.
He’ll give you one that says Death to the Round-eyes.