Rose Mart, Summer 2021
by Kaleigh Johnson
The stench of chicken gizzard sweat
and crisp cockroaches beneath my feet,
hours old Folgers and the sticky sweet remains
of the broken slushy machine.
I squat and climb and squat and climb and squat and
stack mini mountains of Modelos and Marlboro Reds —
Sometimes, men ask for cigarettes they’ll never smoke
just to see me bend over. I learn to turn sideways instead.
Then again, an open button brings in big tips.
$300 in scratch-offs, $20 profit.
Freezer-chapped lips and chemical-coated hands,
unzipped pants and muck-smothered boots.
Five packets of ketchup exactly and
Hola mami, can I get a taste?
Red and blue lights emblaze weed-glazed eyes —
A smoker at the wrong place, wrong time.
I sweep and mop and scrub and sweep and mop and scrub
but the fucking floor never stays clean.
Carefully count the change —
never owe them anything.
The long walk to the car in the dark,
pepper spray in hand.
Lock the door. Turn the key.
Buckle the vodka into the passenger seat.