South Fork Poetry: ‘IGA’

By Philip Schultz

It’s one week after Sandy 
and Mrs. Cobb, our mailman’s aunt, 
who lived in the Halloween house on Sherrill Road 
that burned down, is ahead of me in line, 
hands in her hair, screaming. 
Betsy, the cashier, is telling the assistant manager, 
Peggy, that all she did was say her peaches 
aren’t the ones on sale. Mr. Brim, the sourpuss 
who owns the pizzeria on North Main, yells 
from behind me, “Just give her the damn peaches!
A dead deer’s on my garage, my backyard’s a lake, 
we’re still at my sister-in-law’s and I’m not hollerin’ my head off!” 
I offer to pay and Betsy snorts, “You!?” 
because two years ago I refused to make a third donation 
to her Baptist choir and her god isn’t the forgiving kind. 
Now Rudy, the manager, is here, angry 
not to be among his friends the chips and donuts in aisle 6. 
“Good!” Mr. Brim groans, “now everyone’s here!” 
Actually, almost everyone is here, JJ, 
the deli air drummer who hums R&B and slices 
everything thin, Fergus the cart gatherer 
whose tattoos depict angry biblical patriarchs 
and Benny in produce who lost 84 pounds eating sardines 
and Cocoa Puffs and has iPhone photos to prove it, 
all come to see if this is another catastrophe 
that will keep us up all night, watching our kids sleep 
in the living room, praying for the wind to stop, 
the roof to hold, that last insurance bill got paid, 
fearing our ignorance and pettiness is to blame, 
that if we were just a little more humble in the hearing 
and sublime in the doing, as St. Augustine suggested, 
we could all go back to sleep only one donation 
and the right peach shy of deliverance.

From “Luxury,” Philip Schultz’s latest collection, out earlier this year from W.W. Norton. A winner of a Pulitzer Prize in poetry, he lives in East Hampton.