“The Purse” by Stephanie A. Hart

Stephanie A. Hart


Just dump it,
she said
to herself. It’s
the only way.
She had
ten minutes,

ten minutes
after four years
of rushing:
was the moment

to clean her purse.

The purple
matchbox car
hit the table
Flanked by bits
of crayon
and straw wrappers,
errant pencil tips
and battered
baby barrettes were
the sweaty remains
of the morning’s
pre pre-K
peanut butter
on pumpernickel
a nearly empty,
ink-stained bottle
of hand sanitizer.
Nothing was hers.


Not the
crumpled bill given
to her daughter
and then jammed
into the purse
to “keep it safe.”
Not the
spare Spiderman socks.
Not even, really,
the sapphire
set in gold,
an heirloom
from her mother-in-law,
she had removed
when she learned
how easily
fine hair catches
in filigree.

the blue book.
What was that?
It wasn’t
a child’s book.
An address book?
A passport?
An unmarked passport.
A slim, plain blue
rectangle opening
from the bottom
no photo,
no stamps,
no identifying marks.

This was hers.

from Rattle #64, Summer 2019


Stephanie A. Hart: “I write poetry because I can’t stop myself. In every mundane action or interaction, we can find insight into ourselves or human nature or the world around us, if we take a moment to observe. Poetry gives me that moment. I wrote ‘The Purse’ when I challenged my workshop students to write a poem featuring a group of randomly selected mundane objects set together on the table in front of us, including a peanut butter sandwich which I had found in my purse wrapped in a ragged, brown paper towel and pulled apart to lie open-faced and gooey in our make-shift still life. ‘What happened to the peanut butter on pumpernickel?’ asked two of my students when I ran into them at lunch in the dining hall. I ate it.”

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