Dead of summer, I’m aproned
and sweating at my seasonal retail job,
stacking cucumbers, stocking salads,
slicing potato sacks—golden, red, russet.
We get a watermelon surplus—we truss it
all off the truck, extra pallets packed
with cardboard bins bursting with fruit.
We heave them through backrooms
to the selling floor, all those globes
of green goodness, round, ripe lobes.
Boss balks. Supplier oversight,
shipping more than specified,
but we can’t send them back now.
Can’t sell them either, he frowns.
They’ll drive our price down,
we’ll take a hit. No discounts, no donations.
Not my rule—I just enforce it.
You know what to do.
We jack the pallets and roll across the floor
through the stock rooms, to the compactor,
its cracked door a portal to the rancid reek
of curdled milk, blackened bananas and rotting meat.
We sling in the melons—
firm-fleshed, picnic-perfect. They smash
and burst, seeds and pink slush, food turned to trash,
and we contemplate the water now wasted growing them,
gas guzzled to drive them from Georgia,
the insane economics of a world
where food is better in the dumpster
than alleviating someone’s hunger.