My youngest brother marches
Into our dimly lit family room,
Complains about the Metro Cinema,
Where he pushes a broom
Through the tidal surge of popcorn and Milk Duds,
And wipes down the oils of the kernel popper each night.
He tells me how the chlorinated smell of semen
From a high school blow job during the matinee
Makes him want to puke, and how he leaves
That task for Carlos, who works the night shift.
He tells me about his $4.90 an hour,
His supervisor’s menthol-breath,
The demanding voice still echoing in his ear.
He tells me that on his break
Juan Ortiz the high school bully,
Called him out because they don’t get along
In math class. He shows me the lump
On his brow, the knot caused by the stealth blow,
Yet he proudly finished the asshole,
Taking him out with four of his weakest jabs.
He tells me how he missed dinner because he had to work,
How management tried to feed the crew
A microwaved ham, and how he was glad
He refused to eat it because it made everyone sick in the gut.
He looks inside our fridge,
Complains there’s nothing,
Nothing but vanilla pudding sitting on the shelf.
So we drive off at 10 p.m. for a late dinner,
But nothing’s open in Indio, California:
No McDonald’s, Del Taco, or Burger King.
He swears at the desert night,
As his stomach growls like one of its coyotes.
I tell him nothing’s open because it’s Thanksgiving night.
I forgot, spills out from his lips. We drive back home,
Disappear from the crime lights like ghosts.
John Olivares Espinoza
Foraging was originally published under the title, Why I Decided to Stay in School in Poetry International, Issue 5, 2001.