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The Ukrop

As always, with apologies to Mr. E. A. Poe, formerly of Richmond.

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This week upon an evening dreary, while I pondered hungry and weary,
In Ukrop's, over many a colorful leaflet of tomorrow's deals,
While I read there, stomach growling, suddenly there came a drawling,
As of some one gently speaking, speaking near the electric door.
“'Tis some declaration,” I mumbled, “speaking near the electric door —
Only this, and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each change-machine peruser wrought their coupons within the store.
Eagerly I had paid my bill — presently I sought to fill
From the pharmacist in-house, another prescription for my spouse.
And as I left I reflected coldly before I walked outside the door
The kettle ringing, evermore.

And the rustling recyclable spastic of each yellow bag of plastic
Woke me — jarred me with an insecurity never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
“'Tis some declaration of tomorrow's specials near the door —
Some late statement entreating my attention near the electric door;
That is all, and nothing more.”

Open then an office shutter, but carrying neither milk nor butter,
in there stepped a stately Ukrop, he of grocer days of yore.
Not the least attraction made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with stately purpose, stood he like a statue by the door —
Perched beside a grocery cart just beyond the electric door,
Perched, and stood, and nothing more.

Then this Baptist grocer beguiling our sad faces into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance he wore,
“Though thy shirt be starched and whitened, thou,” I said, “art sure no lively.
Ghastly grim and wealthy Ukrop wandering in the Richmond cold —
Tell me what thy announcement is and say it, say it to me bold!”
Quoth the Ukrop, “We've been sold.”

But the Ukrop, standing lonely by the wobbly cart, spoke only,
Those three words, as if his profits in one sentence did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered — no “Can I help you” then he fluttered —
Till I barely more than muttered, “Other grocers have left us cold —
On the morrow you will leave me, as did grocers from of old.”
Again the Ukrop: “We've been sold.”

Then the Ukrop started smiling, while accountants continued filing,
Straight I rode a motor cart in front of a man who bags did fold;
Then, upon the plastic seating, I betook to hear his musing
Fancy unto fancy, pondering Richmond grocery stores of old —
What this prim, bold, Caucasian, bow-tied wealthy man well-told
Meant in croaking, “We are sold.”

Then, I thought, I grew quite queasy, undoubtedly from chicken greasy
Served by ladies clad in hairnets, proffering plates of Styrofoam.
“Hannaford, Winn-Dixie, Pathmark, all replaced by giant Wal-Mart,
Safeway,” I cried, “A&P — and Pantry Pride, all those have left me,
Community Pride and Johnny Johnson garner market share no more.”
Quoth the Ukrop, “Food is war.”

“Profits!” said I. “Closed on Sunday! A bank and laundry, 401k!
Whether tempter sent, or whether snowstorm brought thee in this store.
Brightly lit, yet all undaunted, in this Broad Street store enchanted —
this business Father Joseph haunted — tell me, sir, I do implore —
Will there — will there be beer and wine? Tell me, sir, I do implore!”
Quoth the Ukrop, “Soon — aisle 4.”

“Market share is crumbling to all the others!” I shrieked while stumbling —
“Get thee back to the 38.9 enjoyed in former days of yore!
Leave no effort broken of the tale you just have spoken!
Your cart wheels are unbroken!” But the Ukrop, just a stone —
“Who will carry my groceries for me?” I asked the Ukrop with a moan.
Quoth the Ukrop, “You'll carry your own.”

And the Ukrop, never balking, stepped aside and took off walking
off the unbroken grocery cart just beyond the open electric door;
And his eyes had all the seeming of a rich man's that is scheming,
And the fluorescent o'er him streaming threw his shadow on the floor;
And he dreams of playing more golf while his shadow strikes the floor
Quoth the Ukrop, “I won't be bored!”

Thus I sit engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
Of the firm whose fiery prices burn into my checkbook's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
of the Amsterdam-based Ahold who will grab market share back o'er,
Will another Richmond grocer challenge Giant's massive stores?
Quoth the Ukrop, “Nevermore.”

Dale Brumfield is a writer living in Doswell.

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