Melinda Coppola

twenty four may | from the inside out

Melinda Coppola

twenty four may | from the inside out


The cashier in the grocery store knows
your secrets.
So does the young man who bags
your fruit, fish, shampoo,
Together in one thin plastic bag
Groaning towards the floor as you leave, hastily.

If you deserved better you’d have spoken,
you say to yourself.

Two bags please, or even three
Fish is a loner, shampoo will bruise
the tender fruit, the firm flesh.

As it was, you scurried off, head down,
and the parking lot was
reliably busy, and the thin bag
reliably broke,
sending all your contents hard
to the cold ground
for all to see.

Fruit, fish, shampoo.
How to balance all the needs,
all the needing
being human entails,
and, because neglect is what you
do to yourself,
the empty, broken bag on the pavement
How have you forgotten the hungry heart?
Yours, not his. Yours, not hers.

And you’re rushing to pick up your pieces,
fish leaking salty strong perfume,
fruit bruised and crying,
shampoo intact but—oh!—
The wrong kind,
And you’re talking back to the bag,
to the broken, to the hot concrete herself,
saying I cannot feed a hunger
that hasn’t been named,
and it’s a gaping hole, too big
too much, as too much as
I am not
enough, not enough,
never enough,

And the hot, hard ground pushes back
against your tired words,
hits hard with her gray gravelly truth,
yells in a way only Pavement can:
Hey! You tread on my back same
as the others, not heavier or light.
Claim the space you were born into,
use my hard to push
your soft onward, upward,
and, honestly
, she spits,

it only takes three minutes to go back and
hear your heart out in the aisles of the grocery store,
find what feeds her
in the eyes of a stranger, the words
on a cereal box, perhaps the colors
of that Alstromeira over in Floral,
the slowing of your own
footsteps, as you choose pause, and space.

Furthermore, Pavement emanates,
Pay your own way, not hers, not his,
Claim your own sovereignty, damnit,

And then:

Your secrets are not
Secret anymore, no more.


Notice in the light of day, Pavement says
(softening now),
scattered on the ground,
fruit, fish, shampoo,
here is space between them,
for love, for rest,
for flowers.

Here is space for more.
Use me, let me ground you.
Take up four f—ing parking spaces.
Says Pavement,

And you realize you never knew
The parking lot swore,

And then you wake
to the sting of your hot bare feet
shedding gravel between the sheets.


–Melinda Coppola











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