Skip to content


I like this moment when there is nothing
more I need to do,
when I have emptied
everything on the counter—
eggs, bread, apples, and some chocolate
I will give my children after homework—
and I am free to study
the checkout lady’s red face
ever so slightly gasping for air,
the quick hands of the teenaged boy
distractedly bagging groceries,
and the lady behind me so tiny
she stands on tiptoes to empty her cart.
I have all the time in the world
to open my wallet and count bills
for the Salvation Army bell ringer
standing outside the automatic glass doors
in the dark and falling snow,
time even to survey the sad
faces on the magazines
and read the headlines and confessions
and forgive each star by name.
But when everything has been counted
and bagged, the bill calculated
and the receipt handed to me,
I’ve forgotten where I am and what I’m doing,
so determined am I to see the angels
William Blake tells me
stand among us,
cherubim lingering by the illuminated
bins of produce,
seraphim protecting the fish sticks
in the frozen food section.
The cashier is saying “Sir? Sir?”
but now I am seeking to pierce the veil
that separates us from the saints in heaven.
Gazing out over the rows of shoppers
waiting in lines with their carts,
and now holding up everyone in line behind me,
I am squinting to find my father, who loved fish sticks,
to see him in his appointed place
among the multitudes of angels and saints,
the heavenly choirs
I can almost hear
singing to me.

The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Related Poetry

The Field


Robert Cording

water that is in waving lines, blue and green and lit by sun over a bed of stones.

We Become the Monkey Girl


Judith Ortiz Cofer

Image of a house in the dead of night. The house sits in the lower left half of the frame and looks like a cut-out from black paper, lit up only by purple light coming from the windows and doors. To the left is an enormous tree shrouded in shadows. A low cloud hangs near the right side sky of the frame. Above the house is a vast sweep of stars on the gray sky.



Adélia Prado

purple lilies or violets in front of a blurred out green background in soft bluish light, framed in a rounded black rectangle.



Christopher Howell

Welcome to Image. 

We curate content just for you. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter ImageUpdate for free.

Pin It on Pinterest