The squirrel stands there

Teeth rasping the shell

From the meat of the acorn

Which he eats like an apple


I am trying to glean

How much he enjoys it

Has the masterful hand of evolution

Sharpened his appetite

To a razor’s edge

For this perfect food


Or is his mind elsewhere

Envisioning springtime picnics

Biding his time with this fibrous nut

Until a toddler, diaper sagging

Will drop a goldfish cracker


The children file in

With their hot lunch cards and sack lunches

Quiet under the influence of their hovering teachers

The noise is still just a hum


It’s about to get really loud in here


There are questions to be answered

Cheese or pepperoni

Packages to be opened

Orange slices in syrup

That will overflow into your lap

Quartered sandwiches, hot dog rounds

Cheese cubes and apple slices in bags


The humming is loud enough now that

You must nearly shout to be heard

Circulating teachers grow agitated

You ate your chips

But you didn’t eat that beautiful sandwich

We only have ten minutes left

What have you been doing for the last twenty?

Neatly made sandwiches and cut fruit

Tossed away to avoid parental scolding

A familiar food battle

Playing itself out one more day


On the outside of the windows

Is a kind of protective meshwork

Like a metal honeycomb

And when you look closely

You can see the bees and flies

Entombed there

Stuck halfway

They must have been flying towards the holes, full speed

Expecting something more pliable, perhaps

When the metal pinned their wings against their thoraxes

And wouldn’t budge

They would have been trapped there,

Until their insides fell silent

Settled, dried

And their exoskeletons

Those tenacious molecular threads

Held them there, peering lifelessly

Into these scenes in the lunchroom

Until even that remaining shell

Collapses into still smaller

Organic pieces

Carbonaceous dust

Scattering into the wind

Strip mall

Oliver wants to walk the sidewalk

Of the strip mall

To peer in

Past the reflection of cars and sky

To receive an education

Through the store windows


Aside from the food palace

There are stores to buy donuts, coffee

Any lab test you want,

Rows upon white rows of vitamins and supplements,

Different places to get your hair cut

If you are a man or a woman


But the thing that holds him

Keeps him there, with his face on the glass

Is the place with rows of reclining chairs

A glass bowl at the base of each

The glass curved, scalloped and marbled brown

As if splashing up from a mineral pool

Bubbling up through the concrete

From deep within the earth


He seems to sense the sacred here

In a gold-framed portrait

Of a handsome man with black hair

Bright and serious eyes

He poses in his starched uniform

Before a bowl of oranges

That he might just reach out

And choose from


In the corner altar

With incense, candles burning

Spices in colorful bowls


In the lady in the chair

Somehow commanding the room

Reclined and still

A damp cloth over her eyes

While a team of young, lithe, dark-haired girls

Rub her calves in oil

Bathe her feet

Massage her hands


It retreats from my face

Leaving my lips purplish-blue

And yellow-green patches on my cheeks


Against the pull of gravity

It flows upward out of my feet

So that my legs

Are like frozen turkey drumsticks


My hands burn

Raw and red

And when the skin cracks

There it is

Underneath, stirring


It is migrating

To warmer climes

And who can blame it


I feel it should be swirling


Dancing in hot abandon

Around my vital

Delicate organs

So why does my heart

Feel like it has frozen over

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