grocery list


With a scratched plastic basket banging
across my left hip, I call you to ask
if there was anything we needed at home.
A pause.
Not really, you say absent-mindedly.
Okay, I say. Okay. Still
I wander through the fluorescent-flooded
aisles, taking my time, labels
passing me by like warning signs.
Always in my head there is an inventory
of things we are constantly
running out of. Sugar. Toilet paper. Crackers.
Hand soap. Creamer. Garbage bags. Time
has never been on our side
when it comes to keeping shelves stocked, full,
not leaving room for empty spaces
or absences that glare from the mildewed dark.
I know you said we didn’t need anything
but maybe we do. Lettuce and spinach,
brown rice, chicken breasts, in case we want
to start making healthier choices
for ourselves. Bread, in case you wake up
in the middle of the night craving
a grilled cheese sandwich, floating with hunger
toward the hum of the refrigerator, the light
from the door cracking my sleep open.
(I would get out of bed and make you one, keep
the edges burnt and the insides gooey.)
A fly trap, for the mouse I keep hearing
rummaging through the cupboards
at dawn—that’s just your imagination,
you’d say again, like you always do

when it comes to things you cannot see
yourself. At the checkout counter
the woman ahead of me in line
has loaded up her cart with bags
of potato chips and one-liter bottles of soda,
a raw testament to the loneliness
that can so easily consume you if you let it. I pay
in credit, not making eye contact
with the cashier when she brushes her hand
against mine. She tells me to have a nice day.
I almost believe she means it. The bagger winks at me
conspiratorially. Already there are cracks
in the brown paper bags I’ve wrapped 

my arms around, the threat of breaking and 
spilling. The crumpled up receipt tossed 
into the parking lot trash can. When will I ever 
be back? All sales are final, and you can never return 
whatever it was you were once so convinced 
you needed.