He took his place within the check-out line, A loaf of bread, some milk, and batteries Cradled against the paunch beneath his ribs. His eyes rest vaguely where they fell on rows Of chocolate, gum, and mints that lined the counter. But, just behind, came some sharp click of tongue— Briefer, but otherwise much like the sound A plowman makes to coax his nag along As it drags homeward through the roughened fields. It startled him from patient thoughtlessness, The drift from wrinkly foil to bright orange wrapper And glossy pill box, whose shapes occupied him But which he viewed with no hint of desire. He blinked and turned to see where it had come from And there, not far away, just down the aisle, Her head cocked back, distracted from its business In searching through the cans of chicken broth, A woman met his eyes. She met them, yes, But without recognition, as if he Were one among the stacks of labeled items, Or, maybe, some great bulk that’s strangely packaged, Of doubtful provenance, but somehow sunk Amidst the clutter of another’s cart; A lump one notices on accident, And doesn’t mean to, but, on instinct, thinks, "That’s not the sort of thing I’d buy for us." So much she seemed to say, while he stood suffering Her gaze, a cold descending through his gut, Until, expressionless, she turned away And spotted what it was that she had sought. She lowered down, in fawn skirt and tall boots, While one hand pressed the cloth against her thighs. He watched her then. Her hand reached out and drew A can from somewhere lost within the shelves, And turned its papered sides within her palm, And ran a painted nail along the text— With such a studied care, with such an interest— To learn exactly what was held inside.