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BooksNovember 22, 2019

The Friday Poem: the other day i witnessed a man seize with epilepsy in the produce section by J. Taylor Bell


A new poem by Belfast-based poet J. Taylor Bell.

the other day i witnessed a man seize with epilepsy in the produce section

then the bottom fell out of the plastic bag
on the long diaspora between self-checkout
and the deserts of the kitchen counter
i felt like napoleon the morning after waterloo
surveying the onions of his empire, rolling away
down the sidewalk, and i wonder if he compensated
for his defeat with, like, days on end of sweaty
& furious masturbation, or perhaps in the end
it was something a bit more prosaic
like lonely fishing along the waterfront
or late night amazon retail therapy
or maybe i am just projecting my own insecurities
about my last breakup, which involved a heated argument
about whether or not i would get to keep the KISS THE CHEF apron
because i ordered it with her prime account
which explains what i meant when i said
things like free shipping are going to be the wedge
we drive between ourselves and the people we love
can’t you see the loyalty discounts
are literally going to wipe us off the surface of earth
like pizza crust crumbs or thumbs of butter on the counter
which was one of the reasons she cited for her leaving
i watch the onions roll in a tired lump towards the sewer
and in a flooded council rubbish bin i see my reflection
then consider writing a poem where i see my reflection
and call it a self-checkout

almost 200 years later they exhumed napoleon’s corpse
which you could also call reopening the investigation
because a whole lot more than the normal amount of arsenic
was discovered in his hair follicles – a bizarre statistic, since
who knew that there’s a baseline for arsenic content in hair
this was all thanks to the journals of his valet which say
i think they’ve been slowly poisoning his blueberry wheaties
each morning for the last six years, and they way he slumps
in his chair at the kitchen table every afternoon
watching an onion for hours on end doesn’t seem normal

please send help, i said to my therapist
because i’ve been dreaming in french seinfeld
i’m living in self-imposed exile on saint helena
and following contemporary religious trends
this is all a form of resistance, she contends
an unwillingness to confront the true fruits
of your you are so you, but you knew that
and now it seems to be seeping into your
subconscious like hot, fetid garbage juice
and i sit in the seat contemplating my hands
like they’ve turned into two microwave trays
then i look up at her and say yeah….but….
wouldn’t that just make everything i write
one form of a resistance poem or another?
and as she goes to write something down
there comes a great rumble from somewhere outside
and the sky cleaves open and the couch & clinical
psychology books & monstera & us & all our upholstery
go crashing straight through the ceiling
like a bunch of onions


Poetry editor Ashleigh Young welcomes submissions to The Friday Poem at

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