by Brad Johnson
I thought my job as father was to protect
my kids from pain so when my grandmother died
we didn’t bring my daughter to the funeral.
We didn’t tell her about my uncles dying until she asked
almost two years later when she was on the raft
with my cousins in the middle of an Ohio pond.
So I blame myself for her expression now: caught
in that shocked pause before hysteria
in the parking lot of Sports Authority three days
before it closes for good. She’s almost nine and this
only the second time we’ve shopped here.
Last month, everything was half off. We bought
a Rawlings catcher’s mitt for $30 to give her brother
and a pair Under Armour soccer cleats for $25.
Now, three days before the liquidation ends
everything’s slashed. Socks for a quarter.
Titanium lacrosse poles and Louisville bats, light
as toothpicks, cut to ten and forty bucks respectively.
Elbow pads for four bucks. The racks themselves
for sale. The shelving. Mirrors stripped off dressing-room walls.
But I wonder if I’ve done more harm than good
by shielding my daughter from loss as we watch
other scavengers picking at this free-market carcass, skinning
it clean like starved cannibals as the store’s automatic doors chomp
open and closed and a couple loads their flatbed truck
with mannequin parts: arms, legs, and headless torsos.
Brad Johnson’s first full-length poetry collection The Happiness Theory (Main Street, 2013) is available here. Work of his has also been accepted by Hayden’s Ferry Review, J Journal, Meridian, Poet Lore, Salamander, Southern Indiana Review, Tar River Poetry, and others.