The gray-haired men block the aisle, carts loaded
like shotguns, talking about the latest
stupid sports or political move
that could have been avoided if they
just had their way. Their voices are loud
because their hearing is bad,
discussing the worst inflation since
— remember when? They peer
over glasses or eyebags at labels,
deceptive, somehow subtly changed
and the soup doesn’t taste quite the same.
Sure, they had worse in the mess hall
or the Peace Corps or that year
of hitch-hiking across Europe/Asia/
South America/the Northern seaboard.
Like the best minds of their generation,
they survived on the road
eating apple pie a la mode,
wearing their last socks full of holes.
The old men stand in line, carts empty
as their days, shuffling their feet,
staring into space, watching the belt
scroll their dinner onward the way life
rolls toward the end, hands in pockets
jingling change (there’s always too much
change) looking at their watches
as if a few minutes mattered now.
Feeling eyes on them, they straighten,
put on a brave face and march on,
the way they marched on the capital,
the jungle stronghold, the next hostel,
before they put on the suit and tie
and pounded the sidewalk, mounted the ladder,
built the glass ceiling, won the bread,
brought home the bacon back when
they were the ones to beat. Remember?