On Aisle 16
A puff of cold wakes her. Strangers open and close freezer doors to find the things they'll bring back to their houses where they'll open and close their own freezer doors. She is on the ground with back to glass. Curled up like a frozen samosa fallen from its carton, exiled from some dumpling family of perfect corners. Waking is a kind of melting. She nods to shoppers like they have solidarity. The absurdity of commerce unites them, or so she thinks.
She reaches for her clavicle to adjust the
made of finest silver from the North of Spain
a locket that bears the name
of the man that
she realizes there's no necklace. Instead, she hears the grocery store playlist and does her best to understand.
Slowly she unfolds her edges to stand. The third Blue Moon at Applebee's is what did her in. Or was it her poetry. She makes a pledge: Never wander the aisles of Kroger drunk. Especially when you miss your childhood home, your mother who clapped when you tap danced on linoleum. Your father before dementia closed the door behind his eyes. Your brothers before they took busy wives. She asks to be put in a cart. No one hears her puff, Take me home.
Like the Bonsai in that Billy Collins Poem
I imagine returning to my high school. I'd bring my own weather like the bonsai tree in that Billy Collins poem. The one that sails alone around the room. Maybe the cafeteria would bring some newfound perspective. The late office would make a lone gesture like it always did. My past would reach from the deck of its verdant shrub to draw me in, lower me down, and row a hundred fathoms toward white-capped choices called future. I'd sit with my old guidance counselor, and he would lean in, again attempting to pull me from terribly small rooms and my family's typhoons. He'd get distracted and tell me about his recent visit to the Soviet Union, about how strange it was that they called restaurants pectopahs. I'd laugh to myself knowing I would study Russian in college and understand his confusion. But in this poem, he does save me. Determined not to fuck up this time around, I'd give myself a chance: spoon a sampling of adolescent's soil, regulate its watering, adjust the sunlight. For now, I'll sit in the corner on a tropical day and trace the angles of adulthood with dull pruning shears.
[she/her] is a poet, educator, and activist currently living in Augusta, Georgia. She serves as a creative writing mentor with PEN America's Prison & Justice Writing Program; her work appears in Grub Street, Poet Lore, Lumiere Review, Hawai'i Pacific Review
, among other journals. Recently, Candice was chosen as a finalist in Iowa Review's Poetry Contest and Cutthroat's Joy Harjo Poetry Prize. Her third book titled A Poet
has just been released with Alien Buddha Press. Find her @candicekelsey1