In the back corner of the store,
in the freezer that is never
defrosted, seven-pound bags of
ice are packed in blue-gray plastic.
They are piled from the bottom shelf
to the top and hard to unwedge
without tearing, cold on my fingers,
wet against my thighs when I
lug the load to the counter, where
I stand before the checkout girl,
fourteen pounds drooping from each wrist,
chuckling at her joke about me
being the life of the party,
“Ice Man,” the nickname she calls me.
I always imagine the way
her face would crack and tic if I
told her why I buy all these bags,
that my wife is sick, that the ice
settles a sour stomach caused by
a weakened heart, that she has no
appetite, that to my wife, hard
ice nuggets feel like food. Instead,
I clamp ten bucks on the counter
not asking for change, refusing
to melt even a little as
the automatic sliding door
rattles me back into the heat.