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Poetry

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.

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