Shame at the grocery store

There were too many simple carbs in her cart,
too much fat, too many nitrates, too much salt—
and all of it bound up with too many additives
to keep everything “wholesome” and “fresh.”
Too few vegetables (and those canned)
no whole grains, no fruits, no greens,
and her toddler mixed in for minding.

That child, for his part, was too demanding
of this too-fun thing and that too-treat thing
and had managed to fuss much of it into the cart.
But then his mother went full-on melt-down
and yelled at him to SHUT IT OR ELSE!
because she had to decide what to return,
there not being enough stamps on her EBT card.

Later, as I walked to my car
I saw her holding her child and weeping—
all-in, no-holds-barred, shaking and shuddering weeping.
I only tore my gaze away
when I saw the little boy’s eyes tracking mine.

It is my great fear that instead of eradicating racism in our society, we have bolstered it with its new flavor, classism. Ask any single, struggling mother of any color how our society treats her and you will hear stories that too eerily mirror the way visible minorities have always been—and are still being—treated. We were supposed to be getting better, not worse…

The events in this poem did not happen, at least when I was involved, but are still very much true-to-life.

Thank you for reading Shame at the grocery store. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in a local grocery store. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.


Photograph, poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge, The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.


Filed under Poetry

8 responses to “Shame at the grocery store

  1. Pete Hulme

    A powerful and moving poem, John, pinpointing one of the most painful places our society is going wrong. Thanks for sharing.

  2. This heartbreaking thing also happened in my country. Thanks for sharing this John.

    • Meiro, Thank you. It is a tragedy that happens all over the world, sadly.

      And again…it was wonderful to see you posting once more. I have missed your poetry very much! 🙂

  3. I see that daily in South Africa. Once I saw an elderly lady who had seen too much sun. She picked up a Ponds face cream, lovingly touched it and re-shelved it. I could see her regret. I delved into my pocket and gave it to her. Why? Because I could. That could have been my Mom. Or me one day, who knows?

    • That is a wonderfully sweet story! I know that you use your blog for pertinent and heartfelt essays on important social topics, but have you ever considered writing poetry? You should, and this would be a wonderful story to start with. It not only has compassion but your comment “Or me one day, who knows?” is a great ‘hook’ ending that catches the reader unawares. Thank you so much for sharing!

  4. I do write poetry… Some of which in on my blog. I write from a place of emotion.
    Thank you for the kind words.
    Kind regards from a somewhat rainy South African afternoon. 🌺

    • Oops! My bad! I am glad that you write poetry too. I will try…no, I will…drop by SunshinySASite soon and do a deeper dive. Promise! 🙂

      And warmest regards from a cold, snowy New England, USA!