Stuffing Bears

By Julianne Palumbo

Stuffing Bears

Image courtesy of Taryn (

He wandered in again today
the man with the low-brimmed hat.
“Yo, Mister, why do you buy so much junk?”
He slides a ten toward my register.
I ring him up.
We don’t talk.
We don’t smile.
We don’t even catch eyes.

Today it’s a stuffed teddy bear,
a blue one.
It stands out.
It screams,
“Hey, I’m ugly, why would anyone buy me?”
Maybe because I’m big,
Smokey Bear big,
maybe because I’m blue,
not because I’m ugly.

He’s strange, this man
who doesn’t talk.
I stuff the bear into a bag
and watch him shamble out.
I go back to the game
on tv,
but this mood hangs over me
makes me want to lie down.

Lots of screaming kids
in the store all week.
They want everything in sight.
They run in circles.
They pull things off shelves,
things I’ll be putting back

It’s dark.
I’m about to close the register.
He wanders in again.
It’s been a week.
I wonder what he’ll buy today,
wonder where he’s been,
wonder what he does with all those toys.

I slide him his change,
stuff the giraffe into a bag,
and hold it up to him.
We don’t catch eyes.
I feel like I want to say
not sure what.

On my way home
the traffic is slow.
I just want to get there.
I come to a stop,
lean on my arm,
and glare out the window.

I stare at the bear,
that big blue bear.
I’d know that ugly thing anywhere,
on the side of the road
next to a giraffe,
next to a cross,
next to a sign
that says,
“We Miss You.”

Julianne Palumbo writes poetry, short stories and young adult fiction. Her work has appeared in The MacGuffin and The Listening Eye and is forthcoming in Poetry East and Ibbetson Street. She lives in Rhode Island where she coaches teens in writing. Julianne is a graduate of Boston College, where she studied English and Journalism, and Case Western Reserve University Law School.  Find out more about her at


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