It’s a good thing he caught you on the threshold
of Publix, so you can cross into
that tiled acreage of plenty.
When you’re pushing a cart with a temperamental
wheel, you won’t cry. When you’re putting
chicken salad with tarragon and almonds
into the cart, you won’t weep, and choosing
a tray of ground chuck, plump under Saran Wrap,
you won’t howl.
Stacking cups of fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt
into the cart, you wouldn’t dream
of collapsing on the tiles in a spectacular
Old Testament hair-pulling fit—not there
before the stoicism of buttermilk,
the solemn dignity of Greek yogurt.
As you reach into the frozen food case, hand above
a bag of mixed vegetables, an old voice
appears in your head, as clear
as the piped-in Billy Joel, that familiar voice
insisting calmly, I told you
you were worthless, didn’t I?
You and your moldy rat turd eggs that will never
make a living thing, and you wait, numb
in the artificial cold, and let that voice say
the truth it has to say with its smug authority,
and then lay the bag of peas, carrots, and lima beans
on the metal seat where the infant would sit.
Josephine Yu is the author of Prayer Book of the Anxious (Elixir Press, 2016). Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, The Southern Review, Crab Orchard Review, The Cincinnati Review, TriQuarterly, Best New Poets 2008, Welcome to the Neighborhood: An Anthology of American Coexistence, and other journals and anthologies. She is a faculty member at Keiser University and a hospice volunteer.