Literary Hook: Poem brings to life a trip to the grocery store

Christine Swanberg
Christine Swanberg

By Christine Swanberg
Author and Poet

This poem was written about 15 years ago in January. I had begun noticing that the large grocery where I shopped was a microcosm of human oddities. If I were to write this poem now, I would have to incorporate cell phone usage into the mix of disconcerting trends at the grocery.

I used playful references to astrology because it seemed that there were forces beyond control at the grocery, socio-political changes that began to appear seemingly out of nowhere. This poem was published in Who Walks Among the Trees with Charity (Wind Publications), The Red Lacquer Room (Chiron Press) and The Alleluia Tree (Puddin’head Press).

At the Grocery

Perhaps it’s Pluto’s transit

or a mild case of entropy

or maybe your eyes don’t refuse to see

the old men bagging groceries

in January —

red knuckles grasping

at control, usefulness,

this paper bag labeled Work Ethic

about to rip down the middle

while green-haired grandsons

wear ragged, clown Bermudas in the snow,

eat only food that requires no utensils,

and whine

all the way to the mall.

Perhaps it’s Mercury Retrograde

or a terminal case of mid-life crisis

or just some hot, chocolate-covered


when the perfect summa cum laude Princess

who’s been married to Prince Charming for 20 years

dumps him for a frog

who’s much more interesting on his motorcycle.

She’s wearing a black leather Harley vest,

popping Rolling Rock into her cart.

It could be Neptune in the first house

or a major case of had-it-up-to-here

or just some hot, creamy goddess worship

when at least two


crones suddenly shear their hair,

shop together, declare

that papaya looks delicious this time of year.

Christine Swanberg is a local author and poet. She received the Lawrence E. Gloyd Community Impact Award at the 2012 Rockford Area Arts Council State of the Arts Awards.

Posted Feb. 5, 2014

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