Janet McCann


Listening to Haydn in the grocery parking lot,
Watching the shoppers with their baskets
Move with Haydn—

Open their cars to Haydn
Pack up their groceries
Into their trunks with Haydn—

Fat mama pirouettes,
A fluency of walk,
Bass drone, laughing bassoons–

Old military type plunks
Three bags in line
With musical precision–

Children glide by on invisible skis—
Light flakes off the chrome cart handles
And flutters off as grace notes—

Ah, divertimento–


After-school job, three to six,
fifty cents an hour.  Plus free screwed-up orders
at the food counter if I get there in time.
The cook often burns the fries, they are
delicious.  I like the seasonal promotions –
like putting four Mars bars together
to make a cross. Gluing them with sugar paste.
Designing a flower on top, an Easter Lily.
Mine are bumpy. A lot less fun:
opening the silver wraps of York mint patties
to check for tiny worms. Throw them out if wormy,
rewrap if not, put back in the case.
A boy asks me to write a bad word in sugar
on an Easter egg, I am eager but I ask.
Wise move. My first real sin – short on change,
I take a nickel from my penny loafer.
Lecture: Someone’s register will not balance!
My second sin, deliberate – I print a sign that says
$1000 each for a rack of ten-cent yo-yos.
I claim error, they believe me. Sort of. But then one day
I’m riding the conveyor belt up from the stock room,
lying between giant boxes of beach balls.
It’s my favorite thing; I do it all the time. But now
a sharp faced old man catches me, shouts for the manager.
Do you know how dangerous that is? She fires me.
Unfair. But she gives me an extra dollar.

Ahh,  but those 6 o’clocks! Full timers get $.75
an hour and are searched on exit—purses, boxes.
I pass free through a different door, at sixteen
presumed innocent. And I am.

© Janet McCann

Journals publishing Janet McCann’s work include Kansas Quarterly, Parnassus, Nimrod, Sou’Wester, America, Christian Century, Christianity And Literature, New York Quarterly, Tendril, and others. A 1989 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship winner, she taught at Texas A&M University from 1969-2016, is now Professor Emerita. She has co-edited anthologies with David Craig, Odd Angles of Heaven (Shaw 1994), Place of Passage (Story Line, 2000), and Poems of Francis and Clare (St. Anthony Messenger, 2004). Most recent poetry collection: The Crone at the Casino  (Lamar University Press, 2014)

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