By Maya Jewell Zeller

Featured Image: A French Market Scene, possibly Boulogne by David Cox

At seventeen I worked after school
and most weekends for a local grocery,
and when it was slow I would straighten
the shelves—we called it facing—
which helped me memorize where everything was,
right down to the canned loganberry topping
Eleanor loved for her cheesecakes
or the clam juice or the coriander
or the yellow food coloring I knew could give people
impotence, and really what would be so bad
about that, I was familiar with most of the customers
who came in and frankly it wouldn’t hurt them
to have fewer babies, the way they laughed
at the Mexicans who brought vans on Saturdays
to fill three grocery carts with tortillas, bagged
chilies and metal-clipped tubes of ground beef,
the way they would ask me what I was doing
when I got off, did I want to come out
to their campground where they were fishing
and no, I didn’t, but I’d smile, ring up
their hot dog buns and Coors Lights,
while they grinned at what little skin I had showing
beneath a black apron that said Okie’s and a button shirt
and I wished instead of their eyes it was wind
at my collarbone, thistle-sweet air while I ran
the road toward Altoona, birds
following my legs with their call,
those honest phlox faces lilting in the wet ditch.

Maya Jewell Zeller is the author of the interdisciplinary collaboration (with visual artist Carrie DeBacker) Alchemy For Cells & Other Beasts (Entre Rios Books, 2017), the chapbook Yesterday, The Bees (Floating Bridge Press, 2015), and the poetry collection Rust Fish (Lost Horse Press, 2011). Maya is Associate Professor for Central Washington University and Poetry Editor for Scablands Books.

Originally appeared in NOR 4

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