“Letter to Nordstrom Re: Why Corporate Should Build a Last Chance Clearance Outlet in Knoxville, Tennessee” by Andrew Lee Butler

Andrew Lee Butler


Dear Sir or Madam or Sirs or Madams—

I write to you with a business proposition.
My wife and I recently moved to Knoxville
on my account, which pulled her 1,813 miles
away from her favorite store:
one of your Last Chance Clearance Outlets—
of which, to my understanding,
there are only two in the country.

Wait. What I mean to say is:

Dear Sir or Madam or Sirs or Madams—

Do you know what love is?

If you’re middle management,
it’s those microscopic forceps
that wheedle between your ribs and spread
each time you stay in the office past five
or spend another weekend waking
to an out-of-state Doubletree’s
continental breakfast,
or when you’re stuck in traffic 
and use your sedan’s Bluetooth to call home
hands-free and hear a voice say it’s okay
you won’t be making it to dinner
and your heated seat glows too warmly
in the last hour of your commute.

If you’re the COO or CFO or
VP of Pants, let me tell you this:
I once bought a terry cloth tee shirt on clearance
at one of your stores, and it was the closest
I’ve felt to unbridled joy. That is how I know
I’ll never whiff six figures,
but my mornings nonetheless
will be blue and bright by virtue 
of a window’s good view.

If you’re an intern, banished
to the slush of public relations—
then come down to Knoxville sometime.
I’ll buy you a watermelon shake
and you can eat it on the way
to our new Last Chance, and we’ll scour
the racks for purple tags dangling
from puce trunks and checkered shirts and anything
that tests the pastel peripheries of our imagination.

Whoever you are, reader, I write to you
because I owe my wife a love poem and more and more
I’m seeing poems in the corners of days—
anticipations and the restlessness
that causes us to put down a good book and wander
into the next room, asking
anyone here want to go for a ride?

Even you, Nordstrom:
Yes, you are a goddamned poem,
one whose buckets and boxes and baskets
I want to flip through again and again,
your endless verse of defects
and coupleted discontinuations.
I want to stay up all night studying
the notes from my wife’s lectures
on the difference between Marc Jacobs
and Marc by Marc Jacobs
and end up only knowing
that they might exist somewhere for cheap.
Nordstrom—I’m learning
my wife likes fancy shit
we can’t afford: volcano candles
and handbags and unopened returns
of housewares 70% off, and that it’s fine
because we’ve earned the human right to want.

The truth is, Nordstrom: We don’t need you
or your Hydrocotton Towels,
plush though they may be.
We merely want you, which is the root
of any climbing love. It will rise
along the trellis of small, glee-filled finds.

The truth is, Nordstrom: an arm’s fine hair
dries just as well as Turkish cotton,
albeit more slow.

from Rattle #72, Summer 2021
Tribute to Appalachian Poets


Andrew Lee Butler: “My family moved to northeast Tennessee when I was two, so I was raised in Appalachia, even though my ‘people’ aren’t from the region. It was a source of consternation for much of life—can one truly be Appalachian if they aren’t a stone’s throw from their great-granny’s grave?—until I reconfigured my conception of the region: Appalachia’s wonderful not because of its legacy but because of its continuation as an idea. There’s no official ‘Appalachia’—it transcends state borders, has no governing body—yet it persists as a willful identity. People see folk doing their thing in these beautiful mountains and say to themselves: whatever they are, I want to be that, too. Oh, and Dollywood. Dollywood’s an endless inspiration.” (web)

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