A Daring Trip to the Grocery Store
by Wilderness Sarchild

The supermarket clerk,
behind his white paper mask,
under his long white hair,
with an acrylic shield between
him and all virus spreaders,
yelled at me
for not standing
at the very beginning
of the conveyor belt
to unload my groceries.
I told him I was sorry
the first time and then,
by accident, I did it again.

He asked the tourists from New York
if they had quarantined for fourteen days.
They said they would begin when
they arrived at their vacation rental.
His eyes flashed, his sarcasm
a joke that wasn’t funny,
Then you’re not allowed
to breathe in this store.

PHOTO: Sign at supermarket in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was inspired by the particular trip to the grocery store that I describe in the narrative.  When I had to be confronted twice because of my own lack of caution for the clerk’s well-being, and then right after, when I witnessed another group’S cluelessness about what they might be bringing into the store from their travels, I felt ashamed because of the risks these essential workers are exposed to every single day as a result of some people’s (myself included) ignorance.


 Wilderness Sarchild is an award-winning poet and playwright. She is the author of a full-length poetry collection, Old Women Talking, published by Passager Books, and the co-author of Wrinkles, the Musical, a play about women and aging that has been produced on Cape Cod for the past three years.  She has won awards for her poetry and playwriting from Veterans for Peace, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Chicago’s Side Project Theatre Company, and the Joe Gouveia WOMR National Poetry competition, judged by Marge Piercy. She was selected as Poet of the Week on Poetry Superhighway. Wilderness is also an expressive arts psychotherapist and grandmother of six.  She is a social justice activist and is a consultant/teacher of skills in conflict resolution, consensus decision making, mediation, meeting facilitation, and empowered aging. Wilderness lives in a cottage in the woods in Brewster (Cape Cod), Massachusetts, with her husband, poet Chuck Madansky. They are surrounded by wild neighbors that include turkeys, coyote, fox, deer, squirrels, giant snapping turtles, and birds. Visit her at  and