“How to Use the Supermarket When You Are Losing Your Mind” by Rebecca M Ross

When in a supermarket

in a town not

your own

do not start screaming 

“Where are the olives? Where are the fucking olives?”

as you race down the aisles

Do not wonder aloud

(or even to yourself)

how it is that everyone  

hasn’t gone completely mad

in their quest to 

satiate the need for

fruits of the brine

Do not ask fellow customers, staff, or

innocent bystanders 

how they are managing to

navigate society 

while remaining tethered to reality.

Some of them aren’t,  

they’re just distracted by 

colorful boxes of cereal

Do not appear to be in 

too much of a hurry as you 

frantically search the shelves for 

manzanillas, kalamatas, gaetas

Please walk at browsing speed and

try not to dart between people like you’re 

running out of time.

Even though your mind is already

into next week

you are expected to be present wherever you are, 

perhaps the produce section

Erase that intense desperation from your eyes, 

you will find what you need

ultimately

maybe in aisle 5.

The anxiety is all in your head but also

hanging in the air, demanding attention like 

this week’s sale signs

Try not to look utterly befuddled 

like you’ve never before been in a supermarket 

even if everything is shaken and

out of place like 

the lopsided setting of a recurring dream, or

an unwanted box of Tampax haphazardly abandoned 

between the penne and campanelle

While you wonder how to 

make sense of the shelving system,

how to think without 

overthinking, 

how to speak without

misspeaking, 

the market has since

closed down around you

and you catch your reflection, realizing:

you are

no longer 

young 

and pretty.  


Rebecca M. Ross is a writer, educator, and avid hiker and backpacker currently living in New York’s Hudson Valley. Her writing has been published in Streetcake Magazine, Whimsical Poet, The Westchester Review, Soul-Lit, and Peeking Cat. She also has poetry forthcoming or published in Uppagus. Rebecca often longs for her ancestral homeland of Brooklyn where her weirdness blends in better. Her favorite bands are Phish and Ween.

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