Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Lauren Camp: Still Life with Extinctions


Almost no one else heard it, the bitch, bitch 

thrown from the line 

next to me. It was Thursday,

and the voice offered 

its etceteras without saying much

else. But what is there to say

when your only contentment

is on the conveyor,

and the woman says no 

to the cash in the palm of your hand?

I had layered my groceries:

some whole bean coffee, bananas, 

whatever I’d been able to grab 

in a few minutes. I wasn’t yet late.

What happened was small, 

and I was buying 

these things. Also ham

and peaches, a bag of pecans. 

I heard the words simultaneously, 

though he spread them apart. 

I paid with a card (no signature

under 50 dollars) without turning 

around. I can still hear the rasps 

he used to backhand 

that helpless cashier

who refused him the drink,

drunk as he was.

Security was called. 

I turned to go out, and saw 

the type of man you’d expect: sort of 

gruff, sort of dirty,

trying to hold the closest thing 

he had to a poem: a bottle 

that might propel him 

toward a new ungainly moment.

He wanted to hold that kind of wanting.

Next time I saw him 

he was walking to the end 

of the parking lot with the guard 

at his elbow. The air was limp,

the road through the city

no longer parallel. Full of lament.


Lauren Camp’s newest book is Turquoise Door: Finding Mabel Dodge Luhan in New Mexico (3: A Taos Press, 2018). Her third book, One Hundred Hungers (Tupelo Press, 2016), won the Dorset Prize and was named a finalist for the Arab American Book Award.

Copyright 2019 Lauren Camp. First published in Southern Humanities Review.


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This entry was posted on February 27, 2019 by in Poetry, Social Justice and tagged , , , , , .

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