Pharmacy

By Judith Harris

The grass is covered up with a brittle frost,
as the customers line up
at the clapboard house,
under a painted sign of a mortar
and club for crushing powders.

In the bay-window display,
apothecary bottles,
one of the old-fashioned scales
with its outspread pans
like the arms of a crucifix,
jars of Bromo-Seltzer,
folded-up wheelchairs,
a breasted dummy’s mastectomy bra.

Now the door opens with a cattail
of jingles, the vintage cash register
rings up its penny change,
and inside, the coughs and sneezes,
the addicts slumped in their niches
trying to hoodwink the pharmacist
by tapping their counterfeit canes,

and from the aisles, the fishy smell
of vitamins and ointments,
where heavy feet pace
the cracked wooden floor,
wearing a path down to dust,
looking for something.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/03/pharmacy/307914/