My mother is taking me to the store because it’s hot out and I’m sick and want a popsicle. All the other kids are at school sitting in rows of small desks, looking out the window. She is wearing one of those pantsuits with shoulder pads and carrying a purse with a checkbook. We are holding hands, standing in front of the big automatic doors which silently swing open so we can walk in together, so we can step out of the heat and step into a world of fluorescent light and cool, cool air. Then, as if a part of the heat had suddenly broken off, had become its own power, a man places his arm around her shoulders but also around her neck and she lets go of my hand and pushes me away. Pushes me toward the safety of the checkout line. Then the man begins to yell. And then the man begins to cry. The pyramid of canned beans in front of me is so perfect I can’t imagine anyone needing beans bad enough to destroy it. The man is walking my mother down one aisle and then another aisle and then another like a father dragging his daughter toward a wedding he cannot find. Everyone is standing so still. All you can hear is my mom pleading and the sound of the air conditioner like Shhhhhhhhhh.
Copyright © 2018 by Matthew Dickman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 16, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.