No One is Taking the Doughnut Shortage Seriously (and all that that implies)
— or the ketchup packet one
over in the adjacent deli, the dearth of good strawberries
in produce. The customers commiserate, ask when will they
be back; walk off not believing us, as if we
have glazed, cream-filled, and powdered morsels
secreted just out of sight, somewhere in the back,
that mythical, commercial place where there is always abundance,
a factory, a warehouse, a pipeline undergird with workers’ hands
a symbiotic system of buy, consume, work back into the economy.
Beyond saving, I don’t like to think
about how much food costs, because I start to feel
I should only live on bread and water,
preparation for if a time so hard should come, and,
haven’t I trained for this since I was fourteen? My first diet:
iceberg lettuce and handmade whole wheat bread
with purified water, a grainy mulch
of tan and cream minerals
that sucked me down to one hundred and fourteen
but I wanted less, wanted one-oh-four like Svetlana Khorkina.
I used to eat a doughnut regularly during store close,
the sugar crusting my gloves and my mouth when
I pulled the mask down just enough to scarf down a bite,
then race to wipe down/disinfect/toss the stales. When all else
fails, toss the stales. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday,
a charity picks them up from my careful placement on a dolly
stacked hip-high by the loading doors. Other nights,
I head to the trash compactor with the wheeled black trash can
a 50-gallon capacity as high as my thigh, heavy under
cakes (plain and decorated), bread, pies, everything
we worked so hard to make just five days ago, I pile high,
unlock the peeling beige door of the compactor —
Sometimes when I’m tired, the stales barely fall in, stuck in the chute,
and I have to take a ten-foot metal pole to thrust them all the way through,
then close the door, smears of red
strawberry glaze and signature white icing smeared against the opaque bags
smushed together like the contents of the cyclops Polyphemus’s belly devouring men.
I remember buying one glazed doughnut
a month before the shortage began —
meant to gormandize on it slowly, a safe
amount of earned calories, self-care even,
mouth foreplay to a full belly I deserved, but
there was no closure to despising every swallow.
Elizabeth Upshur is a Black Southern writer. Her work deals with race, gender, food insecurity, language, myth, and the body. Her work can be read at Augur Mag, Fantastic Other, Brown Sugar Lit, and recently won the Gigantic Sequins flash fiction award. She loves trying new foods and anything in houndstooth print.
The featured image is “Fruit” by Ding Fuzhi (1945), selected and manipulated specifically for Elizabeth’s poem by our Art Director, Meg Sykes.