“Portrait of the Small-Town Pharmacy and Gift” by Camille Lebel

Brass bells clanging against glass
broadcast entry into the corner store 
here crisp, humming air freezes the sweat
sliding down, alongside Elvis sideburns
or pooling above full lips before journeying
into the abyss between sagging breasts.
Melting humans solidify like extinguished candles. 

The glare of too-bright lights reflects
Tylenol red, Pepto pink, Mylanta green.
The once cream rug cushions thick-soled
work boots coated in thicker mud alongside
sharp prick of cheap stilettos, 
sturdy pressure of practical loafers, and
in rare, glorious moments, plump naked
feet of a toddler refusing constraint. 

Acidic lemon disinfectant combats
grease and onions from lunch, hanging
stubborn in the air. Lingering choke of
cigarettes crushed on asphalt and distinctive
cologne of bodies baking in summer heat
wrestle with lavender oil and turtle fudge. 

A skidding swipe of scissors
curls ribbon for get-well wishes while
grandmothers cluck and compare chicks.
Balloons destined for birthday thrills fill–
a hissing zip of chemical-lightened air 
smacking orange latex. 
Whispers of high-society snafus mingle
with sighs over insurance premiums and
the soft tinkle-hum of windchimes asks
“May I help you? How are you? Come again.”

Above it all, in his countered kingdom
the pharmacist sits on his stool.
Listening, lips pushed into a half smile, 
he flicks his angled spatula, ping-ting scraping
the rainbow of orbs, spheres, capsules, 
bullets into their bottles, 
managing the masses for one more day. 




Camille Lebel, mother to seven, lives on a small farm outside Memphis, TN. She has published poetry in Inkwell and Hyperbole. She enjoys horse whispering, vermicomposting, and singing to her chickens. She most often writes poetry on the Notes app on her phone while waiting in the school pickup line.