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Dad taught me to steal when I turned twelve.
In white apron over butcher's coat
hiked-up a foot to clear the sawdust floor,
pencil stub on trussing twine
dangling from a buttonhole,
boyhood snatched and left behind,
I was hammered into a counterman.
Smile, say 'Help you ma'am?,
give her odd weight
(even's too easy to calculate)
and add five percent to every sale,
or the Chains will eat our lunch.

Long ago I forgave his lies
that made me a thief so he could buy
a Jersey skiff, flash a two-inch roll,
and Mondays after Schvitz visit his trull
But the customers don't pardon me:
should grandee, politician, fellow praise
service I've rendered, building raised,
once more across the counter shoppers stand
empty bags in outstretched hands,
Blondie, with her seven ragged kids,
baggers, dailies, handy-men,
discount coupons crumpled in their fists,
the working or redundant poor
I stole from weekly at his store,
stare, point, till I turn aside
crimson, drop my eyes, and convert
laudation that should shrive me into dirt.

                                    Published in Salvage at Twilight