Weekly feature by: Margaret Graber

It’s when I walk up to the automatic doors of a K-Mart
on the last day of November, and the middle-aged man ringing a bell
for the Salvation Army tells me keep smiling that I know
instinctively this is another one of those times my behavior
is being policed by a man who doesn’t know my name. Doesn’t know
my birthday or how my dad cried the night I was born, NBC replaying
It’s a Wonderful Life the night after Christmas. All he knows is what his eyes
tell him: I’m just another young girl who, even though I’m almost 29, passes for 20
and possesses, I’m sure, that feminine naivety he thinks he knows so well.
So I can’t say if he was taken back as I, walking through the doorway
into that department store’s red and green costume, shot back
with my response, the one I’ve learned so recently to do, to return any unwanted BS
to sender, to not let its stone rattle around my ribcage, not let its toxic drop
poison my pond self. I say, pointing my finger-wand straight through his chest
You keep smiling too! And I say it, of course, smiling, not one to be malicious
or too hard in small town America to strangers I don’t even know.

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