The old woman is pissed off (again)

because (again) her actual self has been
denied—with a smile (of course), denial
offered as a favor, a kindness, a sweetness—
the speaker assuming she’ll be flattered
to hear that who she is, the old woman
what she is, an old woman, is not really
(not now, not here) who or what she is.

“Oh no! Not even close!” says the cashier
when the old woman asks for the elder
discount on her grocery bill. The cashier
smiles as those words slap the old woman
sliding her credit card along the sensitive
rim of the register computer that will
(or will not) approve of her.

They always smile when they do this.
She can see what they expect: she will
accept denial, take erasure as the gift
they mean it to be. They’re giving her
a gift, saving her from the awfulness
of her own true life, and they want her
to smile about it, join up and pretend
(makeup, hair dye, cosmetic surgery)
—pretend she’s not who she really is:
a woman, grown old, out in the world
buying radishes, cereal, soap, cookies.

Born and raised in the Great Lakes region, Judith Arcana lives now in the Pacific Northwest. Judith is the author of Grace Paley’s Life Stories, A Literary Biography; What if your mother; Here From Somewhere Else (2015); and Soon To Be A Major Motion Picture (2014). Other recent publications are The Water Portfolio (2014); a fiction zine, Keesha and Joanie and JANE (2013); and a chapbook of poems, The Parachute Jump Effect (2012). juditharcana.com