Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 17
Fall 2017

Free Trade

by Peter Neil Carroll

Blouses is my department, Head of Stock my title.  
I’m stacking shrink-wrapped sleeveless Peter Pan collars 
in columns of pink when a caramel-colored woman
awash in a sunrise shade of red, approaches my shelf, 
her smile nourishing as Tahitian breadfruit. 

Selling blouses depends on where they’re put 
to hang, at the exit doors, perfect for impulse 
shoppers, mostly women who haven’t already 
found what they want or can’t afford what they like, 
reaching on the way out with a desperate hand. 

Our eyes touch, her lip droops at the printed price. 
The Fair’s been here all summer, tourists swarming
the aisles of the largest emporium of our imperial city— 
to ogle, to squeeze, to try on for size, to snatch a trophy 
of metropolitan adventure, impromptu shopping. 

Inches from the front exit, her deed’s not unseen, 
she begins a game of distraction to escape, this 
I learn when a tall woman wearing a crucifix 
big as a policeman’s badge, comes close saying  
That one, stock boy, stay with me, and I follow.

I’m the last line in the war against free trade, hired  
to save house detectives from violence, bosses from loss, 
customers whose costs will rise if the pirates walk. 
When they trap her on the far side of the revolving door, 
she’s quiet, except that witch-eye curse she throws me.


SHJ Issue 17
Fall 2017

Peter Neil Carroll’s

newest poetry collection is The Truth Lies on Earth: A Year by Dark, by Bright (Turning Point Press, 2017). Other titles include Fracking Dakota: Poems for a Wounded Land; Riverborne: A Mississippi Requiem; and A Child Turns Back to Wave: Poetry of Lost Places, which won the Prize Americana. His poems have appeared recently in Poet Lore, Southern Quarterly, Tar River Poetry Review, Spillway, and Radical Teacher. He is Poetry Moderator for and lives in northern California, with writer/photographer Jeannette Ferrary.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury