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Sunday, 24 January 2010



File:Fredmeyer edit 1.jpg

The night is cold and there is a line of fifty, then sixty people waiting with their things in baskets in the checkout line, it is a large market but only the one line is open on a Saturday night and the line has stopped moving because at the head of it a woman has disputed the total the checkout clerk has charged her for her grocery things, the amount of money in dispute is inconsequential but the dispute continues, the clerk calls on a phone for a supervisor but no supervisor arrives, the arguing goes on, the people in line are fidgeting but no one says a thing, the dispute continues, the clerk continues to argue with the woman and to make calls but help does not arrive, one then two then three security guards arrive then leave again, the line grows longer, the clerk is trying to control her agitation but now the people in the line are growing visibly restive, some are leaving the line, fuming, muttering to themselves, one man says Enough of this and leaves his cart full of groceries where it stands and walks off, mumbling to himself, saying just loud enough to be heard the name of a much more expensive gourmet market a few blocks away, I don't care what it costs he says moving away, others are nodding their heads and now more people are leaving the line and simply walking off and leaving their goods in carts in this line which is now becoming a cemetery of purchases never to be made, the quarrel at the head of the line continues as the clerk and the woman, no longer concealing their anger, battle over the total on the long white slip of paper in the woman's hand, the clerk continues to make calls even while continuing to argue and now at length a supervisor shows up wearing a heavy parka, having just come in out of the cold rainy night to arbitrate the dispute and as she arrives the clerk suddenly and without another word throws her apron to the ground and walks out of the market in the wake of the growing stream of angry patrons, now the line of shopping carts is becoming a line of ghost carts without shoppers attached to them, but the supervisor somehow solves the dispute with the woman at the head of the line, giving in to her, and then strips off her parka and begins to check out the goods of other shoppers and now the line is moving again, those who have waited are rewarded for their patience, some have been standing in line for at least half an hour but the wisdom of having waited is now apparent to them, and they continue to wait, and in the fullness of time their goods will be checked out and they will leave the market and go out into the wet cold night that much the more aware of what sort of a time this is they are living through, monads, human objects with needs, which they may now proceed to begin to fill, once they have shifted the goods from the carts into their cars and steered their cars through the dark rainy streets to wherever it is their lives must go on in, perhaps they have friends or family waiting, perhaps not, perhaps they are alone, alone or not alone humans have needs and the night is long, here comes the night, here it comes.


Supermarket packaged food aisles, the new Fred Meyer on Interstate on Lombard, Portland: photo by Lyzadanger, 2004
Shopping cart on beach, St. Andrews, Scotland: photo by Sandro Ravazzolo, 2004



Ahhh, Tom, great poem! The first photo is beautiful (its colored geometrical abstractness), then the poem that keeps going and going like the line and the time those people standing in it are living in as it passes, then the second photo (the ravages of time, shopping cart like Shelley's "shattered visage" in "Ozymandias," ("the long and level sands stretch far away." Perhaps something here 'connects'. . . .


orange of sky on horizon above blackness
of trees, song sparrow calling on branch
in foreground, sound of waves in channel

from word meaning extracted,
but not as resistance

wall, building in landscape,
into which nature was

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
shadowed green slope of ridge across it

Bowie Hagan said...


thanks for this reminder- God keep all the people, today or tomorow.


Anonymous said...

great painted poem tom;

dense as a ryebread spring
in the Endless lower east side
below delancey
ghost pushcarts
alter cockers
chinese slippers
roar of the f train
below the grates.

~otto~ said...

I used to shop at this store all the time before I moved to the city. In fact, this store is every store I ever used to go into, but the long lines in them never paid off like this wonderful long sentence did: "... and the night is long, here comes the night, here it comes."

TC said...


Well, that Tesco cart washed up on the beach at St. Andrews may once have heard the sound of waves or words in the channel ("Near them, on the sand,/Half sunk") -- meaning extracted, time passing, but not as resistance, and beyond all argument.

TC said...


Many thanks, sweet to have a word from you. May you dwell in the keeping of the gods, and gods save the people.

Heaven knows we all need keeping now.

TC said...


The goods of lost gods spill from those overturned beached ghost pushcarts.

TC said...


Swimming around like a glowing halfdead squid in a Ziplock in the back of what remains of my "mind" while I watched that checkout line scene through open plateglass doors from the parking lot in the rain was this song.

I remembered purchasing the single version (Decca/UK) the week it came out, May 1965, in a backstreet record shop no bigger than a Ziplock, in England, where I was then swimming around like a glowing baby squid on the brink of its first synapse. How time flies... or shall I say flops around and crawls... in the night.

Jimmy Page haunting the reverb guitar. And the nascent dwarf squid from Belfast, crying out the tale of love gone bad, creating the two minutes of night magic that made the waves splash out of the Ziplock.

All over again, in my broken memory, there in the rainy american entropic supermarket night, while I numbly watched the unfolding of this small drama of incipient social breakdown. Here it comes.