Tireless Hunt for Food at Safeway

by Bernard Henrie
Muse Motel
Second Place, October 2013
Judged by Kelly Cherry


The tomatoes are turning geriatric,
cantaloupe this late in the season
near cardiac arrest; the deaf plums
purple as a king’s robe.

Food bins to ransack; kosher cheese
strips delivered by jet plane
from Jerusalem, I spy on Kleenex
sunning under fluorescent lights.

My image appears in the meat case,
red cap on sideways, long hair, gold
and yellow Hawaiian shirt, Navy ship
tattoo on my bicep;

I am an aborigine gathering food
for a wife in her tweed business suit
and my child, nose-deep
in algebra.


Humorous and touching, this poem is a humble self-portrayal of a husband at the grocery store (I wonder what Randall Jarrell, who wrote about a woman shopping, would think. That times change, for one thing!): that makes it charming, first of all, and second of all, the description and details of both store and speaker are exact (except perhaps for "I spy on Kleenex," which moves us from hunting to spying). The working wife in tweed deepens our idea of this family, this husband, and the "child, nose-deep / in algebra," lets us know what a loving family it is. The poem is impossible to resist. --Kelly Cherry

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