I watch them come in. The women in Mickey Mouse sweatshirts, their mouths open. They shuffle. Everybody shuffles. The men in winter coats with lots of pockets, long hair, and sunglasses. The women go straight to the bible section and the men go to the porn. You’d think it was a kum and go with all of the shuffling and the open mouths and blank staring. But they know what they are searching for. I get taught how to use the cash register and my manager gets mad at me when I don’t remember a 20-step transaction using the Return Toggle, a coupon, and a membership card. I start to think they hate me; they seethe. People are always mad. You don’t know where Christmas Ideals are?  I don’t mention that I am Jewish, that I never read the bible, that no one talked about Jesus in my house. You don’t know what a good book is for a nineteen year old boy to help find himself is? “Can you help me find a book about Fireflies? Junebugs? That’s it! I can show you where the 8th Bob the Cat book is. I can show you how every semi famous person on the Food Network has written a book and that book gets pushed from a table to an aisle to a shelf to the back room. I can show you the small Poetry section that is full of dead white male authors. I can show you all of the books about Trump where his face looks orange and tiny and I forget that he is the President of our nation. I can show you how everyone starts to look the same as they shuffle about, how maybe this is purgatory. I can show you how I run out of the store when my shift is over.

Image credit:Fred Kearney

J. MacBain-Stephens went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and now lives in Iowa where she likes to rock climb. She is the author of four full length poetry collections and twelve chapbooks. Her chapbook “Teeth Have a Hardness Scale of 5,” is forthcoming from Sputnik and Fizzle Press. Recent work can be seen at or is forthcoming from The Pinch, Cleaver, Yalobusha Review, Zone 3, and Grist. She also hosts an indie reading series sponsored by Iowa City Poetry called Today You Are Perfect. Find her online at http://jennifermacbainstephens.wordpress.com/.