she smelled of
cocoa butter, ghetto hopelessness and the
free school lunches of decades past.
when she fell on hard youthful times
she prostituted but no more.
the princess tattoo atop her left tit
sagged then sagged some more.
even the gold in her teeth
refused to shine
she vaguely remembered
wanting more for herself
and the bitter frustration that brought.
she believed her fat pussy frowned harder
than her cracked face ever could
after pushing out 6 gang members
(4 dead now).
so no more tricks came her way
and she didn't go looking.
about twenty years ago now
the supermarket opened-
hired from her projects
she got lucky passed a 3rd grade math test
that most other applicants couldn't
became a cashier.
and a familiar face to house wives, children
and unemployed food stamp working hours shoppers.
she was Ms. Betty to everyone
watched many babies grow. some die in blood.
ready always with her dull gold smile
of undeniable warmth.
the arthritis was setting in good now
they moved her from her express lane home
put her on checkout #14
some customers thought she had died
no one ever looked all the way down to #14.
the express lane is a self checkout now
no sagging tattooed tits
no once golden smile
no sad pussy, tired from the birthing of too many thugs.
the burying of too many cocks. long time passed
just beeps and whirls
and while the customers were sad
they soon were pleased by the new efficiency.
And Ms. Betty watched this all
alone and unseen on empty #14.
she had heard more self checkouts were coming.
management stopped hiring new cashiers
at the end of one 9 hour shift
after 9 hours at #14 all alone
she angrily desperately kicked a self check out machine
and on the way home to her studio apartment
her toe hurt so bad she stopped 3 times to sit on the curb
feet in the gutter worn shoes torn socks
2 days later she went to the free clinic
her big toe and the next one were broken.
the upwardly mobile 30 something doctor
told her to miss work for 2 weeks while she healed.
she hobbled home to her meowing cat
played the message on her machine
it said in a managerial tone that
more self checkouts were coming in a week
Ms. Betty hung her head and cried
as her cat licked at its empty saucer
as outside her lone window
the sun beat down on the dirty cement
withering a brave dandelion
dying between it's cracked surface.
wishing that just one passerby
would recall its proud yellow bloom.
About the author: Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Noah Kaplowitz is the most renowned poet/essayist of his household.
Nowadays, Kap resides in the Pacific Northwest, where his chronic depression is masked nicely by the chronic depression of others who live in the eternally rain-soaked State of Oregon.
Along with his loving girlfriend, he is raising four children, a menagerie of pets and a vegetable garden come next spring. In his spare time, Kap enjoys thinking up ways of garnering more spare time, while simultaneously (and bitterly) cursing his lack of spare time.
His collection of poetry, ‘West of West’ can be bought throughJazz from Hell Publishing.
"It’s a simple, un-photogenic thing really, a purposefully nondescript chapbook with 64 poems."
Contact Noah Kaplowitz:
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