September 2004 / Volume Five / Issue Four
David Bates
The Longest Line

you pick the shortest line
nothing but a bag of kitty litter
hefted on your shoulder

you remember
that you need toilet paper
but remind yourself

that you are meeting your girl
for lunch and
payday margaritas

when suddenly
you realize the guy in front of you
is wearing the same shirt as you are

you tap him
& say hey man
I dig your shirt

heís surprised
says he got it for $4
at goodwill

you say you got yours
at wal-mart
years ago

he says
itís a comfortable shirt

you agree

and he faces forward
and continues
       to wait

you begin to think
his shirt is coolerĖ
youíve always been
a bit ashamed
that you got it
at wal-mart

you begin to wonder if maybe
youíve spoiled it a bit for him, too
just a bit

you check out the
fully cooked rotisserie chickens
under the heat lamps

you check out the
fatty cellulite on Britney Speareís ass
on the cover of a tabloid

the line hasnít moved
you shift the bag of litter
f/one shoulder to the other

the sound system plays out
some female-dance/pop version
of the song
Heaven

& you know
there is a whole generation now
that doesnít know
that itís really just a
re-cycled 80's
Brian Adams hit

you reconsider
the cooked chickens
& glance at your watch