American Life in Poetry: Column 356


Nothing brings a poem to life more quickly than the sense of smell, and Candace Black, who lives in Minnesota, gets hold of us immediately, in this poem about change, by putting us next to a dumpster.

Mr. D Shops At Fausto’s Food Palace

For years he lived close enough to smell
chicken and bananas rotting
in the trash bins, to surprise a cashier on break
smoking something suspicious when he walked

out the back gate. Did they have an account?
He can’t remember. Probably so, for all the milk
a large family went through, the last-minute
ingredients delivered by a smirking bag boy.

He liked to go himself, the parking lot’s
radiant heat erased once he got past the sweating
glass door, to troll the icy aisles in his slippers.
This was before high-end labels took over

shelf space, before baloney changed
its name to mortadella, before water
came in flavors, before fish
got flown in from somewhere else.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by Candace Black, from her most recent book of poetry, Casa Marina, RopeWalk Press, 2010. Reprinted by permission of Candace Black and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2019 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.