by Meredith Mason
$34.99 blinks across the screen
and the customer shakes her head,
My daughter wants this doll
that will spy on her! Can you believe it?
When I’m at this job, I put
my Self on the Shelf. Sometimes
she watches. Sometimes
she shuts her eyes.
Alone with my thoughts
in my register stall, I muse
and his horcruxes, bits of his soul
he placed in things. Christmas Eve morning
I spend at the temple of stuff, hoisting
and heaving, shifting and lifting
and gently wrapping and reshelving
and straightening and hanging up.
That evening I convince my kids
into little vests and we go
to the Episcopal Church where
only my dad is a member.
We are not baptized, so the priest
will not plunk a square of bread
into our cupped hands, but we can
get a blessing. When the priest
lifts his hand over my son,
my son doesn’t know what he’s doing,
he reaches up to give him five,
and the priest bows his head like
this is a funny and also a wonderful thing,
to be confused and connected,
together, today. And when I pass under his hand
—the span of a breath—
how lucky I feel when he gives me nothing.
I take a bath and put my head
all the way under so my heartbeat
is loud and faceted, like
my children’s heartbeats galloping
from the ultrasound speakers.
If one of my sons one day
has a soul-sucking job,
I will tell him he can’t quit,
and he will quit,
and it will be the start
of a distance that grows between us,
a time I didn’t know his heart.