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

  • December 2020 Winners

    • First Place

      Avaricious
      by Judy Kaber
      The Waters

      Second Place

      To James Bulger, aged 2, murdered February 1993
      by two boys aged 10 in Liverpool, England
      by Christopher T. George
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      Third Place

      Dr. Pachango’s Mango
      by Jim Fowler
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  • November 2020 Winners

    • First Place

      Notorious RBG
      by Laurie Byro
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      Second Place

      To My Old Age
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Waters

      Third Place

      Beggar’s Lice
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Writer's Block