one backstep ahead

featured in the poetry forum December 26, 2022  :: 0 comments

you can’t return this item, he told her.
“the dark girl who served me didn’t tell me that,” she said.
“’snot my fault you have stupid darkies working here, is it?”
she got her refund if only to get her to go away . . .

you can’t return this item, she told him.
“don’t tell me what I can and can’t do,” he said.
“I’ve had prettier girls than you do a lot more for me,
you stupid bitch. go get your manager, I wanna talk to him.”
she WAS the manager. but he got his refund if only to get him to go away . . .

you can’t return this item, I told them.
“sez who?” the guy asked.
it’s company policy, I shrugged.
“well I don’t see no one from head office here,” the girl said. “I only see YOU.”
“yeah,” the guy smiled. “and you’re gonna give me my money back
or I’ll have your blood and snot all over this counter.”
“yeah,” the girl smirked, “he will, you know,” as they lovingly embraced . . .
they got their refund if only to get them to . . .
well, you get the idea.

in conclusion?
should you wish to circumvent a store’s refund policy?
I’d strongly recommend being
racist, misogynist, threatening and just downright unpleasant.

better yet,
why not be all of these things at once
on Boxing Day?

that’s my advice, shoppers.
not that you need it.

editors note:

Perfect advice for the reversal of your Xmas Cheer! – mh lay

like I say

featured in the poetry forum November 4, 2022  :: 0 comments

he shuffled up to the counter
and said he had a needle
filled with his own blood
and he was going to stab me with it
if I didn’t open the till
and give him everything we had.

he didn’t look well.
he was sweating so bad
the scabs were sliding around on his face.

but I was hungover:

nothing happens when you die
because you’re not special, I said.
this is your one brief shot at existence
and you’ve ruined it.

like I say, I was hungover.

he went out crying
and the next customer came forward.
huge woman who wanted to know the refund policy
before she bought anything.
when I explained it to her
she nodded solemnly, made a tutting sound
and finally said:
okay. I’ll see if you’ve got anything I want to buy.
but if I find something, will I have to queue up again

editors note:

Life, with no refunds, has us all in queue. – mh clay

chapter twenty-something

featured in the poetry forum June 8, 2022  :: 0 comments

I’d been in the new room about an hour
and I looked around asking the walls:
how long will we be friends?
when the spider scuttled across the room
and under the bed.

I went over and lifted the bed.
there was the spider.
now what?
I wasn’t going to kill her. she was the size of a kitten.
she was too hairy and had her own face.
I don’t know what I was going to do –
maybe shoo her out or ask her to split the rent

anyway right next to the spider was this CD –
compact discs, remember them? –
one of those blank orange ones you used to buy in packs
to burn stuff onto – burning media, remember that? –
and scrawled in smudged red marker across it was
“Susan and Denise, school bus, 11/06/2007”

I sat looking at it. analysing the title for clues.
maybe it was some kind of documentary.
a kid’s tv show.
a parent’s recording of a school trip.
I sat looking at it

until the spider stomped it to pieces with eight fuzzy boots,
her gnarly face not necessarily accusing
but relieved nonetheless
as I binned the pieces
and we proceeded to discuss living arrangements.

editors note:

Make your hallucinations at home. – mh clay

face as red as the elusive carpet

featured in the poetry forum March 15, 2022  :: 0 comments

stacking shelves.

she comes over:

cheese? she asks.

second aisle, I point to my right.

OK, she says,

then went

editors note:

When what’s asked goes left, but isn’t right. – mh clay

open slay

featured in the poetry forum December 21, 2020  :: 0 comments

Christmas eve, the shop was so busy
it was decided we would not be taking
any breaks.
after 6 hours of serving the queue,
I took a mince pie out of my pocket:
mangled, and garnished with pocket fluff, yeah,
but it was Christmas and I was hungry
so I ate it at the checkouts
as I scanned and packed
and the customer, she says:
you brought enough of them for everyone?
no, I told her.
my pockets aren’t big enough to feed everyone,
financially and literally.
hrumph! she jiggled her face.
well that’s not very Christmasy of you, is it?
was she being serious?
give me your lunch, or you’re not being Christmasy –
that was her argument?
because, you know,
she just HAD to have an argument, didn’t she?
with a shopworker? on Christmas eve?
so after scanning her, like, fifth tub of chocolates,
instead of putting it in a bag, I took the lid off
and asked her: mind if I have all the Malteser ones?
but apparently, THAT was stealing.
whether I was robbing the shop or the customer
I don’t know,
but both she and my boss seemed pretty pissed off about it.
maybe they were sticking up for one another?
after all, it’s good to think of
the less fortunate
during the festive season,
innit just?

editors note:

Give cheer to get cheer to cheer up, enough to go ’round. – mh clay

by the way.

featured in the poetry forum October 31, 2020  :: 0 comments

what’s that?
you’re in a rush?

well then maybe you shouldn’t
join a queue you don’t want to be in
to be served by a cashier you hate
so you can buy stuff you don’t want
at a price you don’t like.

I’m pretty busy myself:
I’m the cashier you hate
who scans and packs your stuff
while you have a go at me
about the quality
and the price
and how long you’ve been queuing.

I was scanning and packing for the queue
long before you graced me with your presence
and I’ll be scanning and packing for it
long after you’ve gone

and you’re not the only one
to complain about these things
and guess what?

I’m pretty busy myself
and when I get home
I’ve gotta write a poem.

thanks for that, by the way.

editors note:

Turn your frustration into inspiration. What rhymes with wanker? – mh clay

22 years old and red raw with yellow

featured in the poetry forum August 15, 2020  :: 0 comments

I was scared to live
and scared to die
so I got a job in a supermarket.

I was stacking shelves
when this loud slap echoed outside:
PAH-CHOW! like a gunshot

so I put my box down and went out there
looking for some crossfire
but it was just some mid-pubescent oaf trying to start his motorbike
as it banged out black farts.
what you lookin at? he said
and I thought:
if he hits me, I might be allowed to go home and kill myself
or, if he hits me hard enough, I might just die here and now.
it was win-win.
so I told him: a virgin, I assume?
but he bottled it. just issued some flimsy threats
and went chugging off across the car park.

why didn’t I just quit and die?
because I knew then
that I was in for a long slow death of shelf stacking:
my personal cowardice
was my minimum wage contribution
to our collective political cowardice,
stacking shelves in our assisted societal suicide
for years to come.

and besides, it was a payday:
they always solve everything, don’t they?

editors note:

That paycheck suspends us in purchasing purgatory. Be happy. Buy more. (We welcome Tanner to our crazy congress of Contributing Poets with this submission. Read more of his madness on his new page – check it out.) – mh clay

of grave unimportance

featured in the poetry forum May 29, 2020  :: 0 comments

the jobcentre crony
is surprised to see me:
your appointment’s not until later, she says
I’ve a funeral to go to, I explain.
any chance we could do it now?
and she rolls her eyes: well I suppose we can fit you in,
she roots around for a form.

we have some stuff in common:
her collar is white
but she’s working class, like me.
her collar has hung her;
she’s dead, like my friend.
but she does not and she cannot know this,
as she asks me the all-important question:
what jobs have you applied for this week?

and since there aren’t any going, I say:
and my wit, it is a worm
scratching too loud at her coffin lid
and she wakes up angry
as would I
if I died and went to the jobcentre
but it’s cool: they don’t want me here
in this life
or the next
and aw crap, is there really another life to fail at?

editors note:

No worries, focus. Get this life failed right; fail better at the next. – mh clay

freaks be rare

featured in the poetry forum March 13, 2020  :: 0 comments

he liked the heads best
he liked the rest of them too
he liked all their parts
but the heads
they were the best
and he’d line them up on his bookcase
like pretty vases
pretty silent vases
and admire them
as they looked out of the shelves
admiring him back it seemed
all wide-eyed open-mouthed admiration
but soon they’d grey
soon they’d droop
the eyes running
the lips curling
and it was like they were sad
to be on his bookcase
like they were mad at him
he could hear them scolding him
out of sagging wet grey faces
ugly and loud
they didn’t admire him anymore
and then he’d have to go back out there
and get more heads
newer happier heads
pretty silent heads
that appreciated him.
he wasn’t a freak. freaks be rare.
he wasn’t rare. he was just him.
you know – like you be you?

editors note:

Seeking individuals for home decoration. Heads up! – mh clay