The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Samuel Son

Opening Walmart


The shoe boxes are stacked, ordered in ascending size,
separated into sexes, what a customer chooses to wear, cross-
shoeing -- her own compound word -- is not her judgment,
just that the men's sneakers don't sneak in between
Dora sandals, ankle-strap heels and stilettos.

Then off to the vegetables which are biologically,
thus categorically, distinct from the fruits which are ovaries,
--which is probably why people want to stay in the dark
about this simple distinction about the foods they eat,
this expose on the violence necessary for life --
she makes sure vegetables and fruits keep to their sections
with one exception, tomatoes, which are fruits,
but they swear they are vegetables, and she
won't fight them, besides, what harm is there
if a tomato lies next to a bok choy, as long
as a tomato believes itself to be a vegetable
and a bok choy doesn't mind.

Finally, she checks, the polish of the floor,
which, if done with diligent love,
you can see the whirling of the ceiling fans,
swirling like Van Gogh's broad stroke paintings.

She is not the manager, but she feels responsible,
because this rectangular universe is small enough
for her to feel responsible, a feeling she enjoys.

The cash register's numbers are lit neon green, to traffic people,
and the express lane's maximum of 20 is also lit,
perhaps today, no one will break it, though there hasn't been a day
that rule wasn't broken in the 29 years she has opened the market,
the only days missed were when her father died, then her mother the year after.

Although, sometimes, she misses the wilderness of her childhood years,
wandering under and around Hallasan, especially when she sees the
first customers come in holding hot coffee with steam rising
like mists on a sea when the sun wakes the wild.

(Hallasan is the tallest mountain in South Korea located in Jeju island)



Samuel Son



my mother told me to get acupuncture for my ankle sprain,
I laughed and corrected her, acupuncture is Eastern superstition,
works by the transference of our attention, from one pain to another,
i.e. from your torn fibula to the invasion of dermis by a needle,
and not some mysterious Chi energy never observed by a microscope.

but today,
there are Western acupuncturists
with degrees from universities that actually have
campuses and credentials; and there are books,
I mean hard cover -- drop on your foot, shatter you cuneiforms,
centuries of pages of resume-heavy papers -- text
books from publications not run from a basement
but companies with market-researched logos
stamped on buildings who send out agents like baseball teams.

from all this, I can conclude,
my mother has somehow convinced the whole western world
to believe that acupuncture can relieve migraines,
seaweed soup helps you lactate ,
and bleeding out the black blood pooled in your thumb,
will sooth your upset stomach, in short,
that mothers know best,
old wive's tales are old but are not tales,
and east knows things the west can't know
with all his steeled instruments.

Or else
the whole scientific, medical, educational
industrial complex of knowledge,
is a sham, and that what is real
is the old Chinese acupuncturist,
off Brown & Main Street, his shaved head,
and his almond-blossom eyebrows
that bend like an ancient
tree with his smile, and the wall pinned,
penned diagram of the human body,
splayed, and all the energy points dotting that universe
like constellations, inscribed in them
a person's health and fate, and his searching index finger,
snubbed like a nose, sniffing for my energy point,
and once he finds it, thrusts a needle
that sinks in without a single red tear drop,
and my mother,
clasping my hand,
believing it still in need of holding,
like I'm still her
five year old




SAMUEL SON is a columnist for North State Journal and Presbyterian Outlook. He also directs a Micah Group, a spiritual formation group for religious leaders from diverse traditions. His poems and essays have appeared in MadCrab Journal, Tuck Magazine, the RavenFoundation, Mockingbird, Sojourner and others.



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