Paul Tanner

“half-life story” by Paul Tanner

half-life story

they’ve got this ulcer,
their kids shit the bed,
they shit the bed,
they got laid last night,
they didn’t get laid last night,
they kept going for 10 whole minutes last night,
they’re going through a nasty divorce,
their dad touched them,
their mum never touched them,
they were technically raped,
they think they raped someone, technically,
they’ve got this click in their elbow,
they’re broke,
they’re suicidal,
they could kill someone,
look at this ingrown toenail, look at it!

on and on it goes,
their problems squirting in my ears
loud and unabashed
in vivid detail
as I scan their groceries

but I tell one customer
I have to close my till
cos I’ve cable to lay
and it’s “TMI”?

next time I’ll just shit myself

so I can wallow in my own
for a change.


Paul Tanner has been earning minimum wage, and writing about it, for too long. Was shortlisted for the Erbacce 2020 Poetry Prize. Shop Talk: Poems for Shop Workers was published last year by Penniless Press. No Refunds: Poems and cartoons from your local supermarket is available now from Alien Buddha Press. His star sign is Libido. Hobbies include pillage and colouring in.