chocolate dipped strawberries
by J.K. Shawhan

My boyfriend calls me Strawberry
because of the freckles
under my eyes, because
my fingers go knuckle-deep
in sweets, dipping
grocery-store bought fruit
in a vat of chocolate,

because customers complain to me
while nabbing wallets out
of Prada & Vera purses
that $2.95 is ex-PENSIVE—
businessmen in black suits
stare through my stained,
holey apron—Don’t
you have a discount,
for half a dozen?—

No, because the store owner
is broke, & all her money
is in caramel & candy,
& because she can’t afford
a Saturday off & her daughter
has to work here
& her daughter’s daughter has
to work here, dipping
out-of-season fruit
into a vat of chocolate,

getting smudges on elbows
that match the freckles
under her eyes, because
her income & house & college
tuition relies on several
pieces of candy—

or maybe my boyfriend calls me Strawberry
for none of these reasons;
he just likes the taste
of them for breakfast, too.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Strawberry” is about my experience working at my grandmother’s chocolate store. The poem is a part of a collection I began writing recently about the store and what it is like to work with three generations of family. My hope is that this collection will go alongside another collection I am working on about art and travel, and create one large collection about life, relationships, and finding yourself.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: J.K. Shawhan studied business and writing at Illinois Central College and Bradley University. While attending Bradley University, Shawhan won Co-Third Place for the Chester Sipple Poetry Award for a collection of five poems, and she began working on a collection of poems about other art forms. Her work has appeared in Bradley University’s Broadside: Writers and Artists, in the University of California, Riverside’s Mosaic Art & Literary Journal, and in the September 2015 issue of Wordgathering. Shawhan also founded the Little Laureates Writing Club at Illinois Central College and worked as a Cashier/Assistant Manager/Marketing Manager of a family-owned candy store for most of her life.