grocery shopping in Shiprock
by t. zoEy benally

bread, baah, pan, what else is it called?
the need for slices, canvas for peanut butter,
jam--sans the high fructose--that's another aisle
rice paper lantern wonder bread
tipped, emblazoned with golden kanji symbols
primary color splashed bag, marshmallow puffed
kindergarten nostalgia, but dad always said, "...brown bread."
fierce Roman meal, luscious Sara Lee
a bag of wheat bread tumbles into the cart
remembering all the bumps, saving them for a sandwich later

ignore the donuts, ignore the butter, margarine
margins of lard, grease and trans-fatty-acids
but that cheese sure looks good, no, not the
computer generated, laser printed processed cheez
thick, cow jumping over the moon cheese
beyond commodity cheese, approved Navajo Nation
WIC cheese, good for little kids and breast-feeding moms
get a brick of that, wire sliced strips, slightly sour
could you call it harvest gold? or maybe smiley face yellow
nuke it in the microwave until it melts, oozes across tortillas

milk is next, my son said that lactose-intolerants
are not made, they are born, he read that somewhere
avoid the yellow highlighted cartons, warning, impending doom
calcium enriched milk--just like bees, wasps, poison plants
ultra-nauseating in the morning, cereal becomes chalky
thick, like that spoonful of breakfast before you realize
the milk is sour, you have no tuffet, but are munching curds & whey
yogurt is fun to look at, but carries lots of guilt and shame
French voices proclaiming their serving are smaller, obese Americans
ground up mother bugs providing crimson tint, to match place mats
i presume, and then there's that high fructose corn syrup issue

ignore the sandwich meat, bacon, hot dogs, pepperoni
curve back towards the bread, but not quite...
slip into the cereal aisle, all the best stuff is at the bottom
i resist the urge to shop for toys and candy
disillusioned by granola myths, and 1950's healthy bales
images of women strapped into fat shaking devices
a box of fruity pebbles to get me through tough days ahead
ignore the pseudo juices, hiss and spit at the word "concentrate"
hallelujah--peanut butter and--no not jelly--jam
i scan labels for the twin demons, evil duo, dark nemeses
trans-fatty acids & high fructose corn syrup

tin can troops line the next aisle, more guilt and worry
it won't biodegrade, how much energy is used to make that can?
how much salt? how much sugar? is it dented? botulism swollen?
industrial revolution technology, nudging us away
from enteric disease--my brother-in-law said that in China
they consider diarrhea the norm & people with solid feces are ill
shoving us towards resource depletion, pollution, trash mountains
remember Nali's wood floor patched with can tops nailed
over fallen out knot holes, the rusty can at grandma's house
top partially opened, metal circle curled into a handle

skewed fats, hydrogen atoms at odd angles, jaunty hats
thrown out hips, hydrogen hookers hanging out under dim streetlights
food victims of a capitalist society, engineered to taste better longer
i walk through the cracker red light district, mutated fats and oils
hold up signs, profess to be the second coming
whisper lies into my ears, "we're not like saturated fat, we're good for you."
"now why would we hurt you? we care about you!"
"less hydrogens, more double bonds." fail to tell you that
reconfigured carbon double bonds curl noodles
into spirochetes, Frankenstein heart worms for humans

soda pop is next with all it's carbonation joys and phosphoric acid burns
but that's a whole poem unto itself, let's roll on into the baking aisle
the wall of bluebird flour, did they know about blue birds & Navajos?
is the flour really better for tortillas & frybread, or is it just effective marketing?
BIA sized food isle-bah, number 10 size cans of green bean torture
WD-40, motor oil, then the wall of SPAM--eyes forward, keep moving!
frozen food aisle, frozen veggies cornered by frozen pizza and desserts
my eyes glaze as i meander past Sudafed, tampons, i bypass the baby aisle
grab a pack of toilet paper, roll of paper towels--select a size is my favorite
by pass the dog and cat food aisle--dog's been gone for a year now

i have finally reached the store back corner, produce penitentiary
unenthusiastic, leafy greens bide their time, await blackened edges,
cellulose weakening, leaking water, and eventual demise, mass landfill grave
potato piles, pass themselves off as vegetables to uncles and aunts
trying to be healthy, green chili is a dark green vegetable isn't it?
scentless tomatoes perch on little hill sides, i can almost taste their grainy
texture, something i don't remember from childhood, something
i think fat green tomato worms would object to, alter the ecosystem
in protest over, i push the items i have gathered, move like a knight
along tiled floors polished, two forward & one across, to check out.

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