THE TIME YOU ARE REQUIRED TO SHELTER

  
  
such as during your brother-in-law’s speeches
about how he got rid of the aphids/ cutworms/ beetles.
Endless stories of garlic repellent sprays and neem oil,
tuna fish cans filled with beer.
Lurking outside: viruses with low settling velocity. Airborn for hours.
Inside you’ve got your hall of mirrors, labyrinth, maze.
You’ve got your ball of yarn that the cat keeps stealing.
Ripped shades. Be warned. Duct tape is not the answer.
Stickyweed, cleavers, goosegrass—whatever gumminess you need
is there—in your brother-in-law’s neglected side yard,
far from his tidy rows of peppers, kale, carrots.
You wander among his dahlias—elfin pompoms,
fidalgo splash, crichton honey, duet.
Happy single wink. (Who comes up with these names?
How did you find yourself sheltering in place with your sister’s family?)
Remember the last grocery store run.
You and your brother-in-law in line outside
the store at 5:00 am, and later the flash
of grocery carts locusting bread, beans, whole-grain bulgur wheat.
Swarming aisle 6. A cart topped by towers of toilet paper
and still your brother-in-law reaches for more. Then a long, loud wail.
An old woman dropping a pack of toilet paper,
someone snatching it from the floor.
You remember how your brother-in-law stops reaching
for the highest shelf, turns to her, whispers something.
And you follow the two carts, hers empty,
and you have never seen anything as beautiful—
no, not even his moonfire dahlias flecked with gold—
as him emptying the white towers from his cart into hers.

CLAUDIA MONPERE’s poems and fiction appear in such journals as New Ohio Review, Prairie Schooner, The Massachusetts Review, The Cincinnati Review, The Bellevue Review, Psaltery and Lyre, and in many anthologies, including California Fire and Water: a Climate Crisis Anthology. She recently completed a Hedgebrook residency in poetry, and teaches writing at Santa Clara University.

Author’s note: “My friends made fun of me for this, but I used to love grocery shopping: the connection I felt to other shoppers, the rhythm of walking down aisles and filling a cart, the feeling of lemons and apples in my hands. But in these times it’s stressful. I’ve seen tempers flare, especially in aisles with cleaning supplies, aisles with paper products. Oh man, that toilet paper grabbing! A few grocery store incidents inspired me to write ‘The Time You Are Required to Shelter.’” 

Other work
Everything is a Petri Dish

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