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Winter/Spring 2016

Making Sense of the Meat Department


by D.S. West


Candy feels Steve’s tribal accompaniment
through her armless blue vest, through
his armless red vest. His flimsy plastic
nametag that says, this one, this Steve,
is Candy’s Assistant Manager.

“While it’s true I advanced through
the ranks of this company,” Steve pants,
amid their slobbering, first-wet kiss–
“it was a pretend life. I masqueraded as another me
so I could find you here, today. As my-self.”

Candy, a Gemini, regroups to check Steve’s
neck for previous purples, blues, clues
to illuminate, to save her from the story he told
when he clasped her hand all a sudden by the
Meat Department. Gloved, dripping

meat byproduct water product. Steve had taken
the soggy powdered hand, knelt down, told Candy
her very first day: “I’ve loved you since I previewed
you. My second time on mushrooms, amplified by
orange juice and Funkadelic. Here you are, at last!”

Steve brought Candy to the storeroom, for the
kissing. He puts his arms up, more to the story:
“’And lo!’ a voice called down from its megaphone-throne,
stories tall and flashing like a light-up Rubik’s cube.
‘Thou shalt be willing to pay full price for everything!’”

Steve rips the managerial badge, tosses off his vest,
kisses Candy twice as passionately.
The intercom warns of
a terrible cashier shortage, of
blazing headlights on empty parked cars.
The president has just been shot, again, but
Steve kisses and kisses, and

Candy is so confused, and
not unconcerned, but she was
a lonely cashier, what had
life done for her lately?

“I never understood that part,”
Steve professed, “until just now.”
Spinning Candy, toward the broken-down
boxes, refuse and discount produce.
Catching Candy. Breathing it in.
“It was a timebomb, set for the
So I could say to you–“

A head of cauliflower becomes Steve’s microphone.
In love, all acts are microphones.
Each moment to make, to break the previous–

“I want to pay full price. For everything.”
Candy expects the rest. We know
what’s next, leaping out at Candy,
out of Steve. The finish is, “For you.”

The U.S. military throws a tantrum;
nukes rain down on worlds 3, 2, and finally 1st
like candy corn. But what’s really happening is,
ignorant, self-conscious earth is choking on Steve,
embarrassment for Steve. ‘Cause any ego’d
buck to see its rider making first eyes
with a svelte local butcher–

“You got any good cuts for sale?”
She eyes the flank, his terrified ride. “No.”
“Well. Right on.” The secret rider spits
umbral sludge, the dire sand.
“I’ll take everything you’ve got.”


[More poems by D.S. West]