Archives for posts with tag: shopping

sugar jets
Sugar Jets
by Patrick T. Reardon

I was six and unclear on the concept.
The commercial, black and white, for Sugar Jets
told me, if I ate a bowl, I would be jet-propelled.

I could see the boy and girl eat Sugar Jets
and fly around the box, jet-propelled.
They were drawings. But a contract was offered,
I thought.

You can see where this is going.

I nagged my mother or maybe my father
— a scary proposition, either way —
to buy Sugar Jets, without saying why.

A box was bought.
I ate a bowl
and went to the back porch, two flights up
from the pavement and lawn below,
looked out over the yard and alley and blacktop,
a gray pavement playground.

At least I didn’t throw myself off.

Instead, I waited for whatever would happen
to jet-propel me
out into the air
and into freedom
and into wonder, maybe a rebirth of wonder.

I am still waiting.

IMAGE: Still from animated commercial for Sugar Jets cereal (mid-1950s).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: True story.  Lucky I didn’t jump.

PTR mid-March 2020

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick T. Reardon, a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, is the author of nine books, including The Loop: The “L” Tracks That Shaped and Saved Chicago; the poetry collection Requiem for David and Faith Stripped to Its Essence, a literary-religious analysis of Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence. His poetry has appeared in Burningwood Literary Journal, Eclectica, Esthetic Apostle, Ground Fresh Thursday, Literary Orphans, Rhino, Spank the Carp, Main Street Rag, The Write Launch, Hey I’m Alive, Meat for Tea, Silver Birch Press, Tipton Poetry Journal, UCity Review, and Under a Warm Green Linden. Reardon, who worked as a Chicago Tribune reporter for 32 years, has published essays and book reviews widely in such publications as the Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, National Catholic Reporter, and U.S. Catholic. His tenth and eleventh books are forthcoming: Puddin: The Autobiography of a Baby, a Memoir in Prose Poems (2021, Third World Press) and Darkness on the face of the water (2022, Kelsay Books)His Pump Don’t Work blog can be found at

i am still waiting in line
by Richard Vargas

only one employee is manning
a checkout-station as the rest
are closed off maybe for good

white haired, five feet tall at the most
stocky and wearing glasses thick
as the bottom of a coke bottle
the blue vest hanging over
her slumped shoulders
she could be someone’s great-grandma
trying to stay afloat paying
property taxes on the farm
medical bills her dead husband
left behind or maybe she
likes the job because
it keeps her on her toes
and out of that dreaded
assisted-living facility
her kids bring up every
time they come to visit

here she gets to meet people
who would normally ignore her
but now are at her mercy
as she picks up one item
handles it with care turning
it over in her liver-spotted
hands looking for the universal
product code so she can scan and bag
she finds it soon enough
on her time, not ours
then goes on to the next item
the person she is checking out
has a shopping cart piled
high and i’ve run out of
tabloid headlines and lifestyle
magazine covers to entertain myself
i’m not going anywhere soon
there are two other customers
ahead of me and no one says
a thing or mutters a complaint
our minutes become molasses
dripping down a wall but worth
being a witness to the marvel
of her persistence

i am still waiting while
at the far end of the row
of vacant conveyor belts
and silent cash registers
the self-checkout is packed

people in a hurry
their time is so priceless
they rush to give it away

PAINTING: Per Capita by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1981).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I like to think Mr. Ferlinghetti would agree my poem is about capitalism’s wet dream: consumers conditioned to pay for the privilege of doing the work themselves, and considering it a convenience.

vargas 1jpg

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Richard Vargas earned his B.A. at Cal State University, Long Beach, where he studied under Gerald Locklin and Richard Lee. He edited/published five issues of The Tequila Review, 1978-1980, and twelve issues of The Mas Tequila Review from 2010-2015. Vargas received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Mexico, 2010. He was recipient of the 2011 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference Hispanic Writer Award. He was on the faculties of the 2012 10th National Latino Writers Conference and the 2015 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference. Published collections: McLife, 2005; American Jesus, 2009; Guernica, revisited, 2014. He currently resides in Wisconsin, near the lake where Otis Redding’s plane crashed.

costco kathy images1 licensed
text poem
PHOTO: Shoppers practice social distancing while lined up at Costco (April 2020). Photo by Kathy Images1, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’ve been a health-care worker for In-Home Support Services for over three years and was a private care provider before that. As an essential worker, I do the shopping and other legwork so my client can stay home and not be exposed to COVID-19. I couldn’t tell you how much of what people feel in the first-responder line is shared necessity, how much is shared time with others serving our communities, or how much is an enforced time-out that lets us regroup.


Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer with an MFA from California State University, Long Beach. His work has appeared in San Pedro Poetry Review, Synkroniciti, West Texas Literary Review, and other publications. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and is slated for release by Tebor Bach Publishing in 2020.

pie slices
Black Friday
by Cindy Veach

We didn’t wake in the dark
to go stand in line.
We aren’t rushing anywhere.
We know there’s nothing we can buy
that will fix last night’s fight
speed us back to solvency.
So I say let’s eat pie.
Pie for breakfast. Pie for lunch.
Each bite a sweet deposit
without sides.
Give in to the simple needs of the body—
sugar, salt, sex—let’s turn the sheets inside
out. Let’s be the sweetest deal in town.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The poem was written on the occasion of a Black Friday eve marital spat and serves up sweetness as antidote.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cindy Veach’s poems have appeared most recently in The Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poet Lore, North American Review, and The Human Journal, and work is forthcoming in War, Literature & the Arts, and Chiron Review. She was a finalist for the Ann Stanford Prize, and the recipient of honorable mentions in the Ratner-Ferber-Poet Lore Prize and Crab Creek Review Poetry Prize. Her collection, Thimbleful, was the runner up for the 2014 Zone 3 Press First Book Prize. She manages fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations and lives north of Boston on Cape Ann.

Mary & Ann Primiano-Rock. Ctr_1
Wearing My Best
by Mary Leonard

I’m wearing my best, a blue cotton
Mother embroidered with cross-stitches,
bordered with rickrack. It’s June.
I dry my hair on the back porch
brushing my curls upside down
until they shine silver in the window,
my face a dark negative. Mother, always late,
powders her nose and plays with lipsticks.
Jubilee Cherry, Bermuda Coral? Not wanting
to miss the 10:25, I swirl on one Capezio toe
and announce, in the voice of my sister,
Coral for our movie star! Mother picks
a pique bolero, searches
for her keys and money hoarded
from her household allowance. I hold
the screen door, urging her on,
while watching groceries delivered
to Mr. Graham who rises
from his patio chair and with high-held glass
waves in the boy from Gristede’s.
I only imagine the inside of a house
I will never enter.

The train’s cool straw seats soothe my legs.
Women board at Bronxville and I envy
their smooth blonde flips, their leather purses.
To eavesdrop on their gossip, I curl small,
like a rabbit. Mother makes lists:
sheets from the white sale at Altman’s,
lingerie, something crisp and white for sister,
a dress from Bloomingdale’s basement,
and my hair cut at Best & Co.
The conductor calls out the stations,
each syllable a song
Tuck a hoe Tuck a hoe

The train sways, hypnotizes
and as we rise above city streets,
my eyes flicker, close, open to scenes
from old-time movies: large women making beds
with billowy white sheets, thin men in undershirts
cooling on stoops.

In Altman’s we march straight past the jewelry
to brass escalators. On Floor Two, Lingerie,
I enter a cave of lace and silk
and feel the satin of scenes
only glimpsed in Doris Day movies.
Mother and I examine the sale table, touching, opening,
searching for the gown we’ll know when we see it.
We both circle my sister’s wedding, I copying
brides from magazines, Mother adding to the trousseau
and her own dreams. We find two,
not too frilly, no décolletage, white and pristine.
Mother checks the fabric, the seams, showing me
at nine what the inside of a garment should look like,
and I see my mother, not much older than me,
sewing in dark rooms, lit only by sequins.

On a double decker Fifth Avenue bus, I memorize
cabbage roses on wide picture hats
and pale lilacs burdening the sides of bowlers.
We pull the cord at St. Patrick’s, visiting quickly,
only lighting one candle before leaving incense
for Main Floor perfume. In Best’s waiting room,
windowed to Rockefeller Center, I watch and want
to build my own skyscraper with blocks,
but feel too shy, too old, easier to snuggle
close to Mother. Mr. Joseph cuts
my bangs two inches above my eyes, complains
about my curls, too many, too thick,
and I wish for straight hair he could turn
with his curling iron. I hold tight
to my pink and white balloon, Best & Co.,
ignoring whispers of cute from huddled salesgirls.

At Schrafft’s the waitress wears all black, even her oxfords,
only her white apron and red curls distancing her
from Sister Pauline. We always order BLT’s on toast,
tea for mother, a black-and-white soda for me.
I save the ice cream for Mother’s stories, today, her wedding,
not the ruffled organdy dress, not the white gardenias,
but after, climbing the steps on West Forty-Eighth,
Dad’s brothers draped like mannequins around the table,
the windows, uncurtained, gray with the smoke of cigars,
and a silence she had never known. Mother’s eyes glaze,
but I’m too young for the words she needs. I squirm
in my seat and whisper, Let’s leave.

At Bloomingdale’s we find six print dresses, cheap,
in Mother’s size. We laugh like school girls
when the dress is too tight or the ruffles bigger
than Mother’s head. We find one, a pastel,
that makes Mother look like
the movie star she should be,
but it’s overpriced. She decides to send it C.O.D.,
saving on the tax, but doesn’t feel right, I know,
so I don’t insist on French crullers,
only orange lifesavers for the train ride home,
the time we review the day, peeking at purchases,
wishing we didn’t leave behind the pink peignoir.
Mother says, after the wedding, she’ll shop just for me.
I dream of a camel hair coat, of penny loafers, of blonde hair.

My eyes close and open: a dark man resting
on a window sill lifts a can to his lips, my father
on our back porch hammers at a loose board,
reaches for his beer, and across our street, the Grahams
hold tightly to glasses of iced tea.
I step onto their patio, awnings flutter.

The conductor chants
Crest wood Crest wood
I am cold. I hold my mother’s hand.

SOURCE: “Wearing My Best” was published in the author’s chapbook A Girl (Pudding House in 2007).

PHOTOGRAPH: The authors as a child on a shopping trip with her mother.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I loved shopping with my mother when I was a kid, and in this poem wanted to capture that unique experience of the late fifties — but I was also interested in what it was like living in suburbia and not fitting in. When we went shopping and on the train, I felt very close to my mother and very protected from the elitism of Westchester. I think the first draft started in a workshop at Bard College.

Mary 1Reading-Yonkers, NY, 5-17-2014-No 2_1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Leonard is an Associate of the Institute for Writing and Thinking at Bard College. She has published four chapbooks of poetry at 2River, Pudding House, Antrim House Press and RedOchreLit. Her work has appeared in many journals, such as the Naugatuck Review, Red River, Earth’s Daughters, Hubbub, and most recently in Chronogram and Blotterature. She is working on a new chapbook Living In the Hyphen and a novel, Italian Ice.

bright lights and serpents
by Charles Bukowski

oftentimes I can’t separate the
people from bright lights
and serpents.
in the supermarket
I see them standing and waiting
or pushing their carts.
I see rumps and ears and eyes
and skin and mouths, and
I feel curiously detached.
I supposed I fear them or
I fear their difference and
I step aside as they
pick up rolls of toilet paper
apricots, heads of lettuce.
today I saw a man

less than 3 feet tall.
he was shorter than his
shopping basket as he
stood angrily in the aisle
looping steaks into his shopping
for a moment I felt like
touching him and saying,
“so you’re different too?”
but I moved on as the
lights glared and
serpents abounded.

my total at the register
was $46.42
I paid the cashier whose
teeth kept watching me.
without warning
a bolt of lightning
flashed past my left ear
and flickered out in the fresh
egg section, then
I picked up my bag and
walked out to the parking

“bright lights and serpents” appears in Charles Bukowski‘s collection What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire (Ecco, 2002).

by Buyer S. Remorse

’Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house,
Every creature was hurting — even the mouse.
The toys were all broken, their batteries dead;
Santa passed out, with some ice on his head.
Wrapping and ribbons just covered the floor, while
Upstairs the family continued to snore.
And I in my T-shirt, new Reeboks and jeans,
Went into the kitchen and started to clean.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the sink to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the curtains, and threw up the sash.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a little white truck, with an oversized mirror.
The driver was smiling, so lively and grand;
The patch on his jacket said “U.S. POSTMAN.”
With a handful of bills, he grinned like a fox
Then quickly he stuffed them into our mailbox.
Bill after bill, after bill, they still came.
Whistling and shouting he called them by name:
“Now Macy, now Best Buy, now Penny’s and Sears
Here’s Wal-Mart and Target and Nordstrom—all here!!
To the tip or your limit, every store, every mall,
Now chargeaway-chargeaway-chargeaway all!”
He whooped and he whistled as he finished his work.
He filled up the box, and then turned with a jerk.
He sprang to his truck and he drove down the road,
Driving much faster with just half a load.
Then I heard him exclaim with great holiday cheer,

PHOTO: Bob McLean by Chad Coleman (Bellevue, Washington, Reporter)



by Greg Caggiano

‘Twas the day after Thanksgiving, it has come at last
The memories of yesterday’s feast, they are all in the past
Getting up at midnight to do your shopping
The blood vessels in your eyes are sure to be popping

The turkey you ate, it has not even been digested
And you know hundreds of morons will soon be arrested
Rush your family out of the house, you need to get your rest
Will you become immersed in Black Friday madness, the ultimate test?

Who really cares about Thanksgiving, it’s just an ordinary day
The pilgrims who we celebrate, they were murderers anyway
So come on, get your wallet, and fill it with cash
5 a.m shopping at Wal-Mart is going to be a bash!

When you cannot buy your favorite items, you are filled with sorrow
You’re too dumb to realize, they’ll be there tomorrow
You lash out at the cashier, you attack your loved ones
A barbarian you look like, even to Attila and his Huns

Running through the store you go, a maniac with a cart
Like a killer you pounce, with a black hole for a heart
In the sporting goods section, someone was strangled with a fishing net
Hey, it beats getting run over by a shopping cart in Target

Every store offers such great discounts
In hospitals and trauma centers, the number of wounded amounts
People just don’t understand, this is the American way
Destroy all that you want, just make sure that you pay

The stores open so early, they call it “Moonlight Madness”
The crazed psycho shoppers fill me with sadness
Trampled to death someone will be
As they always are, by a 400-pound woman who has a bum knee

When you get to the checkout line, you realize the store told a lie
Remember when you came through the turnstiles wondering if you were going to die?
But you don’t care, you got what you came for
Just make sure to get dad’s gift at the discount liquor store

The Macy’s Parade, you had watched it the day before
When all you wanted to do was shop, my, what a bore!
You come home late at night, and watch the news reports of all the shoppers that died
But you got your child the latest toy, and are more than satisfied

Pretty soon, it will be the Christmas season
We have to call it the “Holidays”, for a non-offensive reason
A month later, the stockings will be hung by the chimney with care
As I hope the apocalypse soon will be there

Note: Reblogged from

by David Tucker

I walked into the K-mart in West Orange, New Jersey
to waste some time, avoiding my work at the paper,
letting lunch hour go another hour on a Friday afternoon,
and found the place almost empty, slow as weather,
a museum of itself. Three or four customers
wandered the aisles unhurried considering
the ninety-nine dollar suits and the death of god
or lifting the arms of fall jackets hung in rows
of moody browns and blues, thinking
what good is the death penalty. Clerks read newspapers
and talked in a listless hum, offering solutions
to the gas crisis while leaning across counters,
bright shirts labeled Clearance, whispered
when I walked through them, the jewelry bins
shined in late afternoon sun, calling there is still
time to buy something that will change your life.
At the concession stand a ragged customer
in a dirt-shined suit chewed on a chocolate donut
and sipped black coffee, looking past the parking lot,
carefully considering his choice for secretary of state.
A few more shoppers were getting out of their cars,
a child straggled along from a hand
And the heavy grandmother who ran that little
dining section stared at a wheel of hotdogs
that turned under yellow baking light sweating
beads of fat and Elvis sang his heart out
on the muzak spool to the people in the hour
that seemed it might never end.

Photo: Interior of a 1970s Kmart, from The Grand Emporiums: The Illustrated History of America’s Great Department Stores by Robert Hendrickson (available at
(Photo of David Tucker in the newsroom of the Newark Star-Ledger byKeith Meyers for the New York Times, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Read an article about the author at

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Journalist and poet David Tucker grew up in Tennessee. He earned a BA at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he studied with poet Donald Hall. Booklist critic Donna Seamanhas described his poems as “deceptive in their sturdy plainness . . . inlaid with patterns as elegant as the swoop of swallows, and images as startling and right as a cat’s bowl of milk shimmering as its ‘moon god.’” His debut collection, Late for Work (2006), was awarded the Katharine Bakeless Nason Prize by judge Philip LevineDonald Hall, a former US poet laureate, appointed Tucker a Witter Bynner Foundation Fellow in 2007. A newspaper editor for more than 25 years, Tucker is an editor for the Metro section of the Newark Star-Ledger newspaper, where he was part of the team that won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting. (Source:

by Marge Piercy

The women who work at cosmetics
counters terrify me. They seem molded
of superior plastic or light metal.
They could be shot up into orbit
never mussing a hair, make-up intact.

When I walk through, they never pester
me, never attack me with loud perfume,
never wheedle me into a make-over.
Perhaps I scare them too, leaking
some subversive pheromone.

I trot through like a raccoon
in an airport. They see me,
they look and turn away. Perhaps
I am a project they fear to tackle
too wild, too wooly, trailing

electrical impulses from my loose
black hair. They fasten on the throat
of the neat fortyish blond behind me
like stoats, dragging her to their
padded stools. A lost cause,

I sidle past into men’s sporting
gear, safe but bemused, wondering
if they judge me too far gone
to salvage or smell my stubborn
unwillingness like rank musk.


…”In the department store” appears in Marge Piercy‘s collection Colors Passing Through Usavailable at

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Poet, novelist, and essayist Marge Piercy was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1936. She won a scholarship to the University of Michigan and later earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University. She has published fifteen books of poetry, including Colors Passing Through Us (Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme (1999), Early Grrrl: The Early Poems of Marge Piercy (1999), What Are Big Girls Made Of? (1997), Mars and Her Children (1992), Available Light (1988), Circles on the Water: Selected Poems of Marge Piercy (1982), and The Moon Is Always Female (1980). She is also the author of a collection of essays on poetry, Parti-Colored Blocks for a Quilt (1982). The most recent of Piercy’s fifteen novels are Three Women (1999), Storm Tide (with Ira Wood, 1998), City of Darkness, City of Light (1996), The Longings of Women (1994), and He, She and It (1991). Piercy lives with her husband, writer Ira Wood, in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. (Source: