“Elroy Trains the Stock Boy” by Larina Warnock

Larina Warnock


We don’t sell produce that’s pock-marked, bruised,
wilted, or otherwise unusable by the wealthier families
in town. That’s right, son, we throw it all out.

If it’s remotely edible, though, we don’t throw
it in with the rotten or moldy stuff. There’s a bucket
over there for the produce we share with the bag man.

I forgot that you’re new in town. I’ll tell the story, 
but you should sit down, and be prepared for a doozy 
of a tale. The bag man, he’s this town’s biggest failure,

and all of us try to make up for it in our way.
His name is Dr. Marcus Rivane and he had an office
two blocks south of Main where he practiced 

pediatrics for seven years. He was doing his rounds
at the hospital, checking on my daughter and all 
her peers after the Asian flu came through. 

The sheriff was there, too, with his little boy,
and Captain Roy and folks from all around.
When the siren sounded, every volunteer 

firefighter in town was preoccupied 
with their own sad life, myself included. 
We were slow to the station and slower still

to the little house on the hill on the county line.
Dr. Rivane arrived just in time for us to pull
the charred remains of his wife and child

from smoking embers and scattered flames.
He saw the townsfolk through the Asian flu, 
then disappeared. Everyone around here

figured he’d moved on for good, and he probably
should’ve, but after a couple of months, he showed
up all dressed in plastic bags. None of us will

ever, ever forget that. Oh, we tried to take
him in like good neighbors and good friends
would do, but Dr. Rivane doesn’t remember

his own name, much less the lives he saved
or the lives we lost while he did. We keep
expecting him to wake up one day, but meantime

you make sure you put that bucket out each night.
I can’t ever make things right, but I’ve got this
one thing that Marcus’ll take. For my little girl’s

sake, I’ll pay the rest of my life in lettuce,
pray the rest of my life over kale.

from Rattle #63, Spring 2019
Tribute to Persona Poems


Larina Warnock: “I am currently working on a collection of persona poems titled Canterbury Flats. I started this collection because I was trying to understand my attachment to the country even though I’ve never really ‘fit’ there. As I continue writing persona poems, I realize that it also forces me to empathize with people whose belief systems are very different from my own. Persona poems, written carefully, make us more human.” (web)

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