Rita Dove
Ode on a Shopping List Found in Last Season's Shorts

Wedged into a pocket, this folded paper scrap

has been flattened to a pink-tinged patch –  

faint echo to the orange plaid cotton shorts

that even back then barely cupped my butt.  


Milk tops the chart. Then bottled water,

crackers, paper towels: staples bought in bulk,

my husband’s jurisdiction – meaning

we must have made several stops, together.


Then why is “Home Depot” scratched out but

not the light bulb we would have found there?

Batteries for him, styling gel for me,

emery boards, wasp spray, glycerin for shine:


What contingencies were we equipping for,                   

why were we running everywhere at once?

And now I see it: Ritter Sport, Almond Joy,

Mars Bars and Neccos for the father


whose ravenous sweet tooth was not what                                  

killed him. In the summer of that last birthday

who could have known there would be

no more road trips to buy for, no place to go but


home? I’ll never wear these shorts again.

Found In Volume 50, No. 01
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Rita Dove
About the Author

Rita Dove won the Pulitzer Prize for her third book of poetry, Thomas and Beulah, in 1987 and was U.S. Poet Laureate 1993-95. She received the National Humanities Medal from President Clinton and the National Medal of Arts from President Obama – the only poet ever to receive both. Her many honors include a 2017 NAACP Image Award (for Collected Poems 1974-2004), the Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities, and the Academy of American Poets' Wallace Stevens Award. She is the Henry Hoyns Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Virginia. Her eleventh collection of poetry, Playlist for the Apocalypse, is forthcoming next summer from W.W. Norton.