The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Clint Margrave

Running into Zadie Smith at Albertson's

                                                               Los Angeles, CA


We pass each other in the fruit aisle.

I’m the bald, no-name poet with a scruffy beard and adoring eyes,
and you’re the beautiful, freckly,
critically-acclaimed author of White Teeth with eyes that say,
“What the fuck is this guy staring at?”

I debate making a selfie request,
to immediately post on Instagram,
my arm around you,
with the heading, “Look who I found by the apricots!”
#zadiesmith #onbeauty

We meet again in the express lane.
I’m behind you in line,
and you’re polite enough to put the divider down.
I must admit, the symbolism hurts.

I’m buying tortillas for breakfast tacos, bleach for laundry,
and an expensive bag of cherries for my girlfriend.
What’s your plan with that bottle of Cointreau,
so early this morning?
If you wanted to party, you should’ve just asked.

We could have ditched my girlfriend
and your husband and two kids,
and made our way like we were 21 again
(it’s so American).

At some point, I’d have even asked about your favorite contemporary
novelist, and when you repeated
the question to me,
I would have lied and said, you, of course,
because I know how fragile
a writer’s ego is.

“Sorry,” you tell the checkout girl,
with that British inflection in your voice,
because you’ve accidentally swiped your card
when you were supposed to insert the chip.

The checkout girl’s less impressed than say,
the committee for the Whitbread First Book Award,
and she rolls hers eyes.

It’s not your fault.
Maybe she’s just having a bad day already.
Maybe she’s worrying about something else,
a fight she had with a friend,
an unpaid bill,
a shitty landlord,
probably not that bad review
of her latest novel
in the Irish Times.

Truth be told, you do seem distracted,
as your fingers type the buttons on the keypad to pay,
where my own fingers will soon touch.

Maybe through some keypad osmosis
I’ll contract a worldwide readership too
because currently I can’t even get my friends
to like my Facebook posts.

But you don’t know that. And why would you?
You’re already through the door,
and I’m still standing here,
wondering what this all costs.




CLINT MARGRAVE is the author of Salute the Wreckage (2016) and The Early Death of Men (2012), both published by NYQ Books. His work has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac, as well as in New York Quarterly, Rattle, Cimarron Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Verse Daily, Word Riot, and Ambit (UK), among others. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.



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