Loss in the supermarket

This poem grew out of a story my cousin-in-law (that’s a thing, right?) posted on Facebook. It stuck in my mind, as some things do, where it got reshaped (not to say warped) as everything tends to. This is for her, and her son.

Loss In The Supermarket

a woman and her young son
are in the supermarket
looking at steaks when the boy asks
are those dead cows?
and the woman answers, yes
and the boy asks
why are they dead?

before she can answer
a man nearby says, because they’re delicious

she doesn’t tell the boy this is wrong
or at least, not entirely right
she doesn’t tell him that everything dies
and some things that die are eaten
she doesn’t say that the cows were always
going to be food (and shoes and jackets and
baseball gloves) and that some people think that’s wrong and others think it’s delicious

she doesn’t say the cows
(and pigs and chickens)
only exist to be cut up and shrink
wrapped on styrofoam trays

she doesn’t say that someday she
will fade and fall like the leaves that litter
the lawns on their street, and that
so will he and so will his older brother
and their father, too

and everyone they know
who doesn’t come
to a more unseasonable end

she doesn’t talk about
the hospital where she works
about the overflowing cancer ward
that his grandfather has survived
twice now

she doesn’t say there is really no surviving
but only temporary reprieves

she hopes he will not learn this too soon

she chooses her steaks and smiles to him
should we buy ice cream for dessert?

© Mark Milner, 2018, Vancouver