by Suzanne O’Connell

The sun will rise in two hours.
I walk the dogs through the dark morning
toward Ballona Creeek, my pretend river.
There is new graffiti I can’t decipher,
and a balloon face wearing a smile.
In the lumberyard stand two bears,
adult and child, carved out of logs,
and the beheaded palm trees wearing hula skirts.

On the corner glows my oasis, the convenience store.
Light spills onto the broken concrete like hot lemon topping.
I can see the cardboard cups, their butts toward me,
sleeping in their burrows, small, medium and large.
Above their heads, pots of coffee brew.
Racks of candy and colorful magazines line the walls.
Breakfast sandwiches and hotdogs warm in the steamer.

Standing behind the counter in his maroon vest is the clerk.
Today he looks at his phone.
Sometimes he cleans the windows.
Sometimes he sweeps the floor.
Sometimes he restocks the shelves.
I imagine him waving to me as I pass.
I imagine him coming to the doorway
to say “Good morning neighbor! Come on in, it’s warm!”

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was walking the dogs on a dark, cold morning when I approached a 7-Eleven. At that moment, it seemed to contain all the good and lovely things in the whole world including coffee, a breakfast sandwich, and maybe some human connection.

Photo by Suzanne O’Connell.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Suzanne O’Connell lives in Los Angeles, where she is a social worker and poet. To read more of her work, please visit suzanneoconnell-poet.com.