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Maria Mazziotti Gillan

How Many Hours

“The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending we lay waste our powers:” 

-- William Wordsworth

How many hours have I spent pushing a shopping cart

through Pathmark or Bradlees or Target? How many days

when the children were small did I place Jennifer in the baby seat

and John in the shopping cart and walk through the aisles

of Bradlees because the walls of that tiny apartment in married

student housing were closing in on me, because Dennis was

in grad school and busy and I had the children and I was so lonely

that I walked those aisles to use up the time in the day

that seemed endless.

There was nothing I wanted in all those stacks

of objects—toasters and towels and blenders and sheets,

but I had to keep walking, counting off the minutes

and even in the grocery store where I had to go

because I needed to buy food for my family, even there

I felt the minutes of my life draining away

while I waited in line and tried to keep

the children entertained.  Oh, all those endless hours,

the grumpy looks on the faces of the people in those aisles, 

those people waiting as though

they were trying to fill the Grand Canyon inside them.

In these tacky aisles there is nothing I want or need

except this daily excursion that I use to prove

to myself that I can survive these mundane days,

time like a dark tunnel I must travel through

to get to the other side.

Today, so many years later I can feel Jennifer as a baby

in my arms, John with his hand on my chest while I read

a book to him.  Yes, I loved them and love them still,

and I remember my mother telling me that I would come to long

for the time when my children were hanging on my skirt, and she

was right.  How quickly our children grow and disappear

into their new lives. How much we long to have them back

smelling of baby powder and shampoo, but time refuses

to move backwards. Now, I try

to avoid shopping in big box stores, where the past slaps me

in the face, the memory of those forlorn moments so long ago,

when I walked the aisles with my children in the cart

and wished for something or someone to save me.