“Elder Care”

Do you notice the background music playing in retail stores? I rarely do and am still surprised when my husband of more than 30 years comments on the particulars of what was playing after we leave. I am grateful to Ron Koertge for hearing the music in his favorite market and capturing his feelings in today’s poem, “Elder Care.” It made me smile and want to dance and reminded me that the right music, like the right poem, can lift our mood and change our perspective. See what you think.

Elder Care

My favorite market now has a Seniors First Hour.
The usual soft music designed to make shoppers
browse at their leisure has been replaced by
Dee Dee Sharp’s “Mashed Potato Time”
and Little Eva’s “The Loco-Motion.”

If we don’t follow Eva’s advice to the letter
and “make a chain now,” we do move a little faster
like robbers in our masks and gloves while a bearded
man waits in the parking lot with the motor running.

I’m considering some sad bananas when on
comes the “Peppermint Twist” by Joey Dee
and the Starliters. Some of us start to smile.
We sway above our sturdy shoes. We inch closer
with our carts. Just a little. In case somebody
even under the circumstances wants to forget
why we’re here and dance.

Ron Koertge

Here are video clips of the three songs mentioned in the poem. Warning: watching may result in spontaneous dancing.

“Elder Care” is from Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by Alice Quinn, released in hardcover November 2020 and available now in e-book format. It’s a thoughtful snapshot of the early months of Covid-19. The title is from Pablo Neruda’s “Keeping Quiet,” which contains the lines “we would all be together/in a sudden strangeness.”


“Elder Care” by Ron Koertge, Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by Alice Quinn, 2020. Copyrighted material used for educational or therapeutic purposes.

Photo: “Dance like no one’s watching” Canadian Mental Health Association


  1. Thanks, Patti. I enjoyed reading this post! Here in Perth, Australia, things are fairly OK at the moment, but earlier in the year people seemed to forget about social distancing in supermarkets. We also had “Seniors Hours” early in the morning and also “Health Workers Hour”. It’s a great idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Having just come back from the supermarket in high dudgeon this morning – sat down with my coffee and read the poem elder care – it brought a smile to my face. Sainsbury’s does not play any music which considering the usual is a blessing but the poem and the 3 tracks – much more preferable! Thanks for sharing. Px

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Music is definitely important in a store. I was in Job Lot today and they were playing Cold Play’s “Jerusalem Bells.” I love that song. I even had it as my ring tone at one time. I was praying no one would have to make an announcement over the intercom and interrupt it. Music in stores can make or break a place. At least I think so.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love the poem — and the music clips. I’m a terrible dancer, but you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be skipping around the track to those tunes in the weeks ahead!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I avoid the Donalan’s supermarket in Acton at all costs because of the playlist. It’s unnerving to shop while listening to music that sounds one funeral dirge after the next. I’ve left a couple of comments in their Suggestion Box, but to no avail. Roche Brothers is further, but its well worth the extra drive time.

    Liked by 1 person

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