This selection, chosen by guest curator Addie Tsai, is from Bloodwarm by Taylor Byas, released by Variant Lit in 2021.
A Grocery Store in Alabama
Over the apple bucket, I weigh a Granny
Smith in my hand and thumb the dents for rot.
I check for bruises like these shoppers check
for me—the blackened pit of a golden peach.
Another buggy’s wheel comes screeching around
the corner, a mother peering through the shocks
of hair escaping from her bun, her toddler
pointing and poking price tags, palming fruits.
I wonder what it must be like, no pop
or sting on the hand, no preparation speech—
don’t look, don’t touch—from a mother trying to save
herself from the pop and sting of not-so-quiet
whispers, the manager’s backhanded ma’am, the absence
of respect. Still—as I grab a pepper, garlic
paste—I can feel these shoppers slow around
me, as if someone paused this tape of my
black life, to point to me on screen and say
right there, we got her. I concentrate on the mist
of the veggie sprinkler, water sleeving my arm,
its hiss as soft as a mother’s shush, or the chafe
of a handshake, sliding palms before the hollow
thump on the back, or even the mother bending
to cover her toddler’s finger as she points
at me, her susurration—don’t point at that.