I’m going to fall over and pass out. It’s fine.

Unfortunately, I can’t think of any funny quips to put up here. But maybe if I distract you with some spectacular alliteration, you won’t notice. Debutante damsels dance with dashing dinosaurs, and then the dinosaurs devour the damsels. Drat.

It’s surreal humor.

I’m so sorry. I tried.

This post is about Chloe Hanson and the lovely things she made. Just ignore the dinosaur stuff. It’s irrelevant.The one I’m going to talk about starts at 17:50. It’s called “On Seeing Your First Love at the Grocery Store Three Years Later.”

Oh, no. Cringe-worthy title, no doubt, and that’s how the poem launches us into a nightmare right from the gate.  Is it as bad as you think it’ll be? Oh, yes. “I see you of course, we the only two people between industrial freezers full of vegetables and pasta…” Don’t look away from the vegetables. It’ll just encourage them. 

This poem has some awesome lines like: “Was it you who brought pumpkin liquor from Idaho, paper bag puckered at the top like lips waiting to be hushed?” Ah, those active verbs, efficient flashbacks, and evocative similes.

I also love the narrator’s empathy. “At the self checkout we stand opposite one another, jarring staccato beats mimicking, I am sure, your heartbeat, mine…” Both the speaker and the ex get (messy, real, heartfelt) feelings. This breakup wasn’t one-sided, it wasn’t one person being a monster, it’s not one narrator marinating in self-pity. It’s two people who connected and ripped apart. The wounds are two-sided.

But what I really like is the bittersweet. This poem is a dramedy (mix of comedy and tragedy, eh?). It’s funny! It’s awkward.”I see you are buying potatoes. I do remember your love of…vegetables.”  Kinda silly. On the scale of the universe, it’s just two people in a grocery store. Industrial freezers. Cashiers. Fat-reduced Doritos. What could happen? The other person turns into a dinosaur and eats you? Why is it so scary? Even so, I love this poem for its excellent portrayal of the complexity of human interaction. Or, less clinically, it shows the way all our desires get mashed around so we hurt each other, often on accident…but that doesn’t make us bad people. Just a little tragic.

So, thanks, Chloe, for this touching, clever poem about prickly chance-meetings.

-Jessica, your friendly neighborhood Helicon Blogger


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