Maybe she had dementia,
the old lady in the woolen hat,
I don't know, but she
stopped short in the middle of the aisle,
when her son shouted, PUT THAT BACK.
Clutching a small bag of chips -
like a newborn against her chest,
like a prayer,
like something she owned -
her face collapsed,
Please, but no sound came except,
PUT IT BACK! NOW! PUT IT BACK!
This was Christmas Eve, not that it matters;
Why even embellish a story like that.
I can only tell you I walked behind her
as she walked behind her son,
until I could no longer watch,
yet there was something about
her lopsided hat, her lowered head
that made me sure
no matter what happened next,
she would not put it back.
Used by permission.
Grace Cavalieri is the author of several books of poetry and 23 produced plays. She founded and still produces/hosts public radio's "The Poet and the Poem," in its 34th year, now from the Library of Congress. New Poems: Millie's Sunshine Tiki Villas, 2011. New play: "Anna Nicole: Blonde Ambition" opens 2011.
Cavalieri was a featured poet at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2008.
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