It is right, proper, and fitting
that in a place
so wrong, crude, and jarring
as a gas station
there should also be pumps that sell air and water.

What better way to accompany a slow draught of fossil fuels
than with a selection of the basic elements
quantified and priced,
forced through black hoses
into hidden tanks,
lest we remember
they were once meant for breathing and drinking.

Other dealers are as efficient in exploiting human desperation.

Funny how nobody lingers at the point
of sale
in either case,
as if there might be something wrong with being caught
red-handed
buying gasoline too.

Just pretend it never happened, pretend you never stopped,
restart the engine, check the gauge, rush off
as if there were no time to sound the paradox of how “empty” feels heavier than “full”
as if this time did not count
as if this were just as natural
as breathing and drinking.

Micah Langer grew up in Princeton Junction. After eight years playing music and studying translation in Montreal, Quebec, he returned to New Jersey to get into the building trades. He now lives in New York City, where he crams in time for writing, woodworking, and photography in addition to his day job at a hardware store.

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