On receiving the vaccine in a Walmart



On receiving the vaccine in a Walmart


I try to smile with my eyes
but I know I only look wary,
that my thin squint and weary lids
read more like mistrust.

Is the Virus smaller than
the smell of popcorn–
smaller than the scent of
paperbacks and floor wax
through my mask

that in a different time would remind me
of record stores when dad was alive
or silent libraries of bended spines
when I was not needed, 
and I was not seen–

I receive the needle.

Turnstiles beep but
no one checks receipts.
Carts crash and those incessant bags–
like the sea in a shell to the ear–
rush around us,

our hands folded, we wait
for our throats to close
knowing if one of us slumps from a stroke
the girl in the blue smock will only
look on, wide-eyed beside
the locked-up Enfamil.

–Teresa Kiplinger

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