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Customs

“We are in a world of Generation and death, and this world we must cast off...”
    ~ William Blake, A Vision of the Last Judgement (1810)

You don’t work in a candy store without taking home some candy
The management understood that
So he caught a small nod from Vitaly the observant section chief
Last week that sensible fellow had overlooked a whole fifth
And the two had later shared it
This time there wasn’t enough
But the pocketing was easier
Just a small suspicious envelope from suspicious California
Those pot-smoking Americans
Addressed to a woman in Nevsky Prospekt
A cheap treat for a mail order bride to be
Could be worth opening at home
He studied the small bottle with the strange label once he got there
Before taking a whiff
8th Chakra
Cosmic Perspective
And a weird graphic
Like whirlpool or vortex or tunnel
The rest was in fine print calling for reading glasses
And a better command of English to fathom
A hippie-dippie label to conceal this little gift of alcohol
Those stupid Americans
Anyway this wasn’t tasty as last week’s Asian appellation
Which had meant nothing to Vitaly either
Other than an evening reminiscing together about old times
When there weren’t so many of these little treats
But society made more sense anyway
Too bad there wasn’t always enough to make an occasion of it
Just this little quaff before bed
Those cheap Americans

His dreams were vivid but he couldn’t remember
When he awoke
He didn’t open his eyes right away
They’d caught some kind of motion
Dark splotches on darker — something
He could follow them as they seemed to turn
Orient himself without moving a muscle
Till he faced the long dark length of them
A long spinning tunnel
Black at the end
He was being called forward into darkness

The morning light had nothing wrong with it
Yet nothing in his flat seemed real
Everything like a made for TV movie
The furniture and utensils and everything
Too artificial
Whatever he possessed — phony!
He wanted — no really needed — to see something not human made
Not fake not arranged not tacky
He called in sick and took the metro to the last station
Caught a bus headed out of town
Even the grass and trees were unreal
Magnificently detailed — intimately convincing — but false
Even his body
All just projections

It was hard to say how much time had passed
By the afternoon when Vitaly came across him in the field
Where he dug for potatoes with a spade
Sorting them thoughtfully by now
His custom
Good honest work it might’ve been
If that meant anything
Between pulling up a couple of spuds he said to that sensible fellow
Why bother taking things away from people
When the meaning never fails to come through?

    October 2016

Thanks always returns

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