I hadn’t given it a neuron, but a month ago Chicago native and poet Glory Roberts Warfield (distant cousin of opera’s William Warfield) alerted me about the significance of items even vaguely related to the President-Elect—magazines with Obama covers were being snatched off the racks and store shelves. Ho-hum but hmmm, I thought. Glory had been a wonderful literary resource until we lost track 12 years ago. We reconnected at the 2008 Los Angeles Times Book Festival. In and out of a wheelchair, she survived two strokes and now lives in assisted-care. When freed-up, we go for memory lane “strolls” over chicken-on-the-run, margaritas, or old stomping ground drive-thrus. Between visits, I send copies of Jet as requested. When we talked December 22nd, she wanted “The special collector’s issue of Ebony!”
The next evening, after shopping for Christmas dinner, I scanned the magazine rack. Obama stared into infinity on the last two copies. Delighted, I placed them in the mobile cart and trundled for check-out. As I juggled coupons and cash, watching the cashier ring me up, I noticed a young Sistuh standing in front of the bakery rack off the exit, watching me. I looked at her and she smiled. Physically, she seemed a junior version of myself, thick-bodied with shoulder-length straight brown hair in a loose ponytail.
“Merry merry and happy happy,” I smiled back.
“Can I have your cart?” she asked politely, hands clasped shyly behind her back.
“Sure.” I had finished with it and was loading a basket to take outside.
She promptly hopped in and headed for the parking lot. Odd, I thought vaguely, because people who hung around and asked for the mobile carts usually headed directly into the store to shop. Insofar as I knew, those carts were not supposed to be driven from the premises. Whatevah, I shrugged, and went back to bagging my goodies.
At home, groceries shelved, I bragged to my husband, Austin Straus, about my coup. He asked to see the Ebonies. They were g-g-gone. We searched the car again then examined the receipt. I had paid for them, but between paying and self-bagging, the magazines had disappeared.
What had happened? Where did they go?
Back at the store, the cashier remembered me, and my magazines with Obama on the cover, but I had not left them at the register. No one had returned them to the magazine rack and those were the last copies. Anxiously, I lectured the returns clerk on the difficulty of obtaining Obama material in this part of the southwest alà Glory, nevertheless she was reluctant to give me a refund and summoned the store manager. He looked me over, studied my receipt then excused himself to examine the store videos.
“You make videos?” I lit up.
He returned ten minutes later, smiling ear-to-ear as he answered my consternation.
“The store video,” he said, “showed you bagging the magazines. You put them into the mobile cart instead of the regular shopping cart. There was a young woman watching you. She said something to you, got into the mobile cart and drove it outside, taking your magazines with her!”
Refund in hand, I went store-to-store for forty minutes until I found two moreEbonies—also last copies—at a pharmacy. When I got home, I shared the story and my laughter with my husband—and later, on the 5th with Glory as we cackled over catfish and spareribs, and exchanged belated New Year’s cheers, counting the days, hours and minutes left until the inauguration.
Poet and writer Wanda Coleman was a blatantly humanist artist who won much critical acclaim for her unusually prescient and often innovative work, but who struggled to make a living from her craft. In discussing “my life in poetry,” More magazine, April 2005, Camille Paglia said of Coleman: “She’s not...