No items found.

At Safeway


From The Broken Face. Published by Harbour Publishing in 2018.

Here is an elderly lady
asking the whereabouts of the liquid laundry soap.
She has been waiting in line just to ask.

, says the checkout girl.
The elderly lady heads off toward Aisle 4.
An elegant, tattered puppet, there she goes.

The checkout girl leaves her cash register,
goes to the lady, guides her to the right aisle.
The lady disappears down Aisle 2.

, says the man in line behind me.

, adds the woman behind him.
All of us waiting to pay for our groceries—

the checkout girl asks us in turn.
We wait for the elderly lady,
dividers in place, empty space
readied on the conveyor for her soap.
But where is she? The checkout girl
leaves us again to go look. Where is she?
Our eyes fix on the magazine racks,
taking in who is engaged to whom
(proposal made at a rented-out stadium),
who has gotten married, who has “hooked up,”
the photos of all the celebrities
who have found what they were looking for.
Is the elderly lady going down her aisle,
on either side of her the lit-up rows
of the many liquid laundry soaps
that will make her clothes clean and bright,
that will allow the dust to fall from her?
The checkout girl hurries back to us,
re-opens her cash register, dumbfounded,
having found no one. For a moment
before she picks up an item to scan,
she pauses, and together we wait for this lady
and are wedding guests awaiting a bride.
I see our elderly one casting off
her death clothes as she prepares for the ceremony,
washing in the dazzle and flow of a stream
clear as crystal, putting on new garments
of light and going safely to her groom of light.
Now, after we move dividers,
fill spaces on the conveyor,
utter club card numbers, insert debit cards,
give and take bills, collect shiny, dark-edged
coins tumbling out of a metal box into a cup—

we grab our groceries, say goodbye,
we leave and go out into the broken
aisles of the large parking lot, the streets,
the sidewalks, each of us mortal again.

No items found.


Russell Thornton’s work has appeared in a number of anthologies and has been shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry, the Raymond Souster Award, the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize among other awards. He lives in North Vancouver.



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