A Grocery Store in Alabama

by Taylor Byas

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 23 year old Chicago native. She’s spent her last six years in Birmingham, Alabama, where she received both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and is starting her PhD program in Creative Writing at the University of Cincinnati this fall. Her work appears or is forthcoming in New Ohio Review, The Journal, and High Shelf Press.