“There I Was” by Avery Gregurich

Avery Gregurich


in the middle of the frozen food aisle by
the breakfast items, putting something on
the shelf behind the woman live-streaming
the insurrection on her phone. it was loud
and i saw her smile fight against the loops of
the mask chin-strapped beneath her teeth. she
was watching the ones who had shown up in
her place. the rest of us had to hear that sound
and try to imagine the rest. i’d been watching
the militia grow for months from my post behind
the check-out counter, how quickly the uniforms
were sewn. the stars and stripes had changed
colors with the seasons until finally, in winter,
falling into darkness. “it’s bad out there” the nurse
who worked at the grocery store to get cheaper
health insurance had said, though it wasn’t clear
what she was talking about. shopping each aisle
with care, she continued to tune in throughout
the payment process. after she left, it got quiet again.
very few shopped the rest of the night, and those
that did offered us cryptic updates, sometimes
photos of smoke billowing, once a noose. i remember
most of them buying canned goods. driving home on
the phone with my brother, he said “i never saw this
coming, did you?” it’s been so long now, hearing the
bells ringing, that i believe i forgot what they used
to mean.

from Poets Respond
January 9, 2022


Avery Gregurich: “NPR’s retrospective coverage regarding the insurrection on January 6, 2021, forced me to remember how I first found out about the events at the U.S. Capitol. I can still see her smiling face, hear her phone echoing across the quiet grocery store. I wonder how different the last year has passed for us both, and if there is any reality we still share beyond what lines the shelves.” (web)

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