Poetry March 2010

Pharmacy

The grass is covered up with a brittle frost,
as the customers line up
at the clapboard house,
under a painted sign of a mortar
and club for crushing powders.

In the bay-window display,
apothecary bottles,
one of the old-fashioned scales
with its outspread pans
like the arms of a crucifix,
jars of Bromo-Seltzer,
folded-up wheelchairs,
a breasted dummy’s mastectomy bra.

Now the door opens with a cattail
of jingles, the vintage cash register
rings up its penny change,
and inside, the coughs and sneezes,
the addicts slumped in their niches
trying to hoodwink the pharmacist
by tapping their counterfeit canes,

and from the aisles, the fishy smell
of vitamins and ointments,
where heavy feet pace
the cracked wooden floor,
wearing a path down to dust,
looking for something.

Presented by

Judith Harris’s most recent collection is The Bad Secret (2006). She teaches at George Mason University.

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her middle school. Then Humans of New York told her story to the Internet—and everything changed.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

Video

What Fifty Shades Left Out

A straightforward guide to BDSM

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In