I look at her, understanding skewing sideways.
Overcome with payment screen choices,
chain-store brashness, strip-lit artificial fibers
I panic, hand her cash
exit into the thick steaming mirror of light
as heat dries the last thunderous downpour
from rows of hulking steel.
Retail bubbles surrounded by parking lots so vast
to walk between functions is unthinkable.
Four-lane tarmac slides between
self-reflecting cul-de-sac mazes of
perched taste-washed blowdried
homes, sprawling gargantuan.
And yet, slowly, I pick out
the phrases, the idioms,
the routes, the distinctions.
Awkwardness becomes familiarity
empty looks break into recognition
identical front doors are marked
by tiny signs – a maple tree, a child’s
sidewalk chalk drawing -
become maps I can navigate
Jennifer Stakes writes poetry and dystopian fiction. She has just returned to Britain after living in the USA for three years and is catching up on tea and Jaffa Cakes.