Scenes from a Chicago Department Store

by Will Harris Issue: Spring 2015
it's a terrible thing to die
in a department store
full of people staring
at the other people staring
at your wife staring
at you staring
at them all while you die

to be carried out
on a stretcher beyond feeling
while they beat you on the chest
blow in your mouth
and you wanting to spit
but it not coming
while you laugh at them
with your eyes slowly dying
and your wife crying
and seeming lost
among the people staring
at her staring
at the salesman staring
and the fur coat on sale

but then the doors close
on you not breathing
with your eyes open
to the ambulance windows
plastered with pictures
of the last night to be seen
without stars or clouds

only the eyes staring
over you staring
at the night staring
at you staring
until they mercifully cover you
with a sheet

it's a terrible thing to die
or have someone die
on you in a department store
especially when you want to buy a new fur
and that person was paying
and they carry that person off with the card

it's ill-mannered
to make someone cry
who doesn't want to
when it musses the makeup
and ruins a promising evening
and denies you
the right to a new fur
and embarrasses you
because they stare
at him dying
and you crying
for him whom you never cried for
in your life who was
dead long ago

because it makes you feel awkward
to have to wait for the salesman
to be awkward
and say I'm sorry
Madam do you still want this
so you can sniffle and wipe
and say yes
but he had the card
how long will this coat be
on special

Will Harris was born in San Antonio, Texas into a military family, and later joined the military himself. After two staff tours in the Middle East, he left the military to teach English literature in the United Arab Emirates for several years. His critical and creative work has appeared or is forthcoming in African American Review, Existere, Glassworks, MELUS, Reunion: The Dallas Review, and Storyscape Literary Journal, among others.