The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Bloodwarm by Taylor Byas

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.

Taylor Byas is a Black Chicago native currently living in Cincinnati, Ohio where she is a PhD student and Yates scholar at the University of Cincinnati, and an Assistant Features Editor for The Rumpus. She was the 1st place winner of both the Poetry Super Highway and the Frontier Poetry Award for New Poets Contests. Her work appears or is forthcoming in New Ohio Review, Borderlands Texas Poetry Review, Glass, Iron Horse Literary Review, Hobart, Frontier Poetry, SWWIM, TriQuarterly, and others. She is represented by Rena Rossner of The Deborah Harris Agency.

Addie Tsai (any/all) is a queer nonbinary artist and writer of color. They collaborated with Dominic Walsh Dance Theater on Victor Frankenstein and Camille Claudel, among others. Addie holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College and a PhD in Dance from Texas Woman’s University. She is the author of the queer Asian young adult novel Dear TwinUnwieldy Creatures, their adult queer biracial retelling of Frankenstein, is forthcoming from Jaded Ibis Press in 2022. They are the Fiction Co-Editor at Anomaly, Staff Writer at Spectrum South, and Founding Editor & Editor in Chief at just femme & dandy.


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