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Thursday, November 01, 2007


by Rochelle Ratner

We Card Everyone, the sign at the register says. It’s what they teach employees. And high school girls with pimply faces working for minimum wage are proud to have learned it.

At the back of the market, two Marines home on leave from Iraq are trying to get together a poker game. The father of one has a deck of cards, government issue, with all the names and faces of the terrorists sought right after 9/11. The names are unfamiliar. The bearded faces all look the same to them. The cards were bought on eBay.

They’re told there will be new cards soon. Cards meant to teach the soldiers about historic sites and artifacts. Diamonds for artifacts and treasures, spades for archaeological digs. Whispering, of course, steal this, or take this home with you. Something besides their wounds to show the family. If the family can bear to look at them.

A 77-year-old man, who vaguely remembers one boy as a child, eavesdrops as he steps around them to fill his cart with six packs of Coors and Miller Light, refreshments for the book club at the senior center. They say he looks young for his age. He keeps his weight down. He’s been shopping at this market for over 40 years. When the cashier asks for proof of age it all becomes too much for him.

Rochelle Ratner's latest poetry books include Leads (Otoliths Press, 2007), Balancing Acts (Marsh Hawk Press, 2006), Beggars at the Wall (Ikon, 2006) and House and Home (Marsh Hawk Press, 2003). She is the author of fifteen previous poetry collections and two novels (Bobby’s Girl and The Lion’s Share) both published by Coffee House Press). More information and links to her writing on the Internet can be found on her homepage.