Costco Ode

By Craig van Rooyen

Featured Art by Joachim Beuckelaer

—After Marie Howe’s “The Star Market”

And they did all eat,
and were filled: and they took
up the fragments that remained,
twelve baskets full.
Matthew 14:20


Today, my people—the people Jesus loves—
are shopping at Costco.
Membership checked, we’ve entered
the light-drenched Kingdom of More.
We’re sampling Finger Lake
Champaign Cheddar morsels nested
in tiny paper cups. We’re watching golden
chicken carcasses ride a Ferris wheel to nowhere.
Our carts are full to overflowing
with applesauce squeezes and shrink-wrapped
Siamese twin Nutella jars. Take. Eat.
Take some more. But it’s not enough.
Here you can buy a theme park
for your master bath, on credit.
You can buy buckets of pain
killers, boxed sets of princesses, a
Rebel 4-Pack of Star Wars Bobbleheads.

The crushed-ice battlements of the seafood kiosk
frame Wild Cooked Red King Crab Legs so big
it looks as if a dragon has been dismembered
by retirees in hairnets and aprons.
Though abundance assumes satisfaction,
maybe this is a place of famine.
But why shouldn’t a miracle happen
at Costco? Up the frozen-food aisle now
comes a woman on her electric “Amigo Value Shopper”
with a cow-catcher-sized basket up front and
an orange safety flag in back.
It’s been six months since her husband died,
so she’s parking at the “Human Touch
Massage Chair” Center. Tamara in Ugg boots
knows this won’t be a sale. Still,
defying risk managers everywhere,
she’s hugging the widowed shopper
from behind to help her swing
one leg over the seat of the “Amigo” before
hoisting her to the iJoy Active WholeBody chair
for “plus sizes.” The woman lies back,
as if suspended in a jar of honey
shot through with afternoon light.
And if you sink into the chair next to her
just to be closer, you will hear her telling Tamara
how he brought her tea in bed and how
he stayed up with the sick kids, no matter how late.
And you know she’s only romanticizing,
that she’s forgotten the abandoned
diabetic hypodermics on TV trays, his rage
at her interruptions while telling stories in which
he always starred. But Tamara doesn’t care.
She’s undoing the Velcro straps of the woman’s
orthotic shoes with little tearing sounds
like the husking of a coconut. Let it all go
with your breath, Sweetie.
And somewhere
deep in the interior of the iJoy Active WholeBody
a motor answers a remote and starts to whir,
pushing its energy outward through meshes of gears
until the leather pads begin squeezing and releasing.
But the woman is holding tight to Tamara’s hand.
Don’t let me go, she’s saying,
until I can’t take no more.


Craig van Rooyen holds an MFA in poetry from Pacific University. He lives and works in San Luis Obispo, CA. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, Narrative, Rattle, Southern Humanities Review, Southern Poetry Review, Willow Springs, and elsewhere. He is the winner of the 2014 Rattle Poetry Prize, and runner-up for the 2018 Auburn Witness Prize.

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