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Previously by Summer Block: Herodotus Writes a History of the 20th Century

Ode on an Abandoned Shopping Mall

Thou still and slumbering pleasure palace,
Where thousands didst once gladly gather
Sheltered from the wind and weather
To buy a sweatshirt and a copy of Vs. on cassette.
Ferns, once tenderly potted, now riotously clamor o’er the escalator;
Proud skylights, cracked and battered, survey a vanished world.
What benches, where fathers once would rest?
What play areas, filth-encrusted?
What atriums? What corridors
Where seniors wouldst early stride between the Hallmark and the Ladies Foot Locker?

O what voices haunt these most mournful ruins!
Where chained to a kiosk rudely overturn’d
Ghostly vendors still accost to ask if they might buff your nails.
And echoing o’er the cracked tile, the clunking whine of a Weazel Ball
Caged before the Kay-Bee Toys, forever tumbling.
O Weazel Ball, tumble on! Bold weasel, never canst thou clasp thy prize!
How many maidens newly blossomed did pierce their ears at Claire’s?
How many mothers proudly pose their babes at this Glamour Shots,
Placing that which they most loved into a novelty flowerpot?
How many boys thus handled did later gather at The Bath and Body Store
to buy gifts for Mothers’ Day?

Ah, happy food court! Peaceful kingdom!
Is it possible that all these tables now are empty
Where once families did jostle for a feasting place?
Thy riches, a king’s banquet splendor,
Where the commonest man might mightily sup.
Surf City Squeeze, proud progenitor of our cleansing juices,
What barbarous youths, smoothie-maddened, didst tag thy roll-down doors?
Shouldst ANARCHY FUCKFACE now deface thy resting place?
As chow mein might rest beside a corn dog on one edacious tray,
Mongolian Barbecue now rests beside the Cinnabon to spend eternity.

Proud Agora, thou wert an Olympus!
Where Apollo might with his Muses recline at Suncoast Video.
Now proud Athena’s wisdom lies in the B. Dalton ensepulchred.
Oh wicked generation that should abandon you!
Your ungrateful acolytes, nursed from Stride Rite to Wet Seal.
When online shopping shall this generation spoil,
Thou shalt remain, an ageless marketplace,
A friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
“Commerce is culture, culture commerce, – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

About the Illustrator: Shing Yin Khor is a cartoonist and sculptor living in Los Angeles, by way of Malacca, Malaysia. Her previous work for The Toast can be found here.

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Summer Block has published essays, short fiction, and poetry in McSweeney's, The Awl, The Rumpus, PANK, The Nervous Breakdown, and many other publications.

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