“In the Checkout Line at Rite Aid” by Cati Porter

Cati Porter


Walter the clerk asks
How’re you doing? &
I say Peachy & he
says You don’t look fuzzy
and I say I feel fuzzy
which explains all
the Theraflu and DayQuil
in my basket. Ah so
you have the uncommon cold
and I say Yes indeed I do.
I did too, he says
How long did it take
you to shake it?
I missed a week of work,
and I think he’s been here—
forever?—since my oldest
was a toddler, since
the photo department
mattered, since we used real film,
and those paper envelopes,
and the drop box,
and pushing the double stroller
to Blockbuster afterwards
and picking our weekend DVDs
The Matrix now a “classic”
and Walter, even then, was bald,
and now both of us have put on a few,
and I wonder about the girlfriend
he once mentioned, how her kid
that was not his kid is doing,
wonder about the play structure
he spoke of building, and did he ever
have kids of his own—or is that girlfriend
too in the past? I think this but never ask,
even as he rings us up, me and my
youngest son, who at seventeen now drives
a twenty-year-old car that, like us,
has seen better days but mostly
it’s just cosmetic and heck
at least it still runs. A line has piled up
behind us when Walter finally says
See you later, and I say Yeah.
See you around.

from Rattle #75, Spring 2022


Cati Porter: “Poetry and parenting are both so thoroughly embedded in who I am that most of my poetry speaks to some aspect of parenting, and for that I’m grateful. Rereading my older work is like flipping through the family album. Preserving these moments in poetry, I’m able to recollect in greater detail what would otherwise be lost to time.” (web)

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