Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Transubstantiation

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.

Credit


Copyright © 2018 by Matthew Dickman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 16, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem


“Like most of what I make, this poem was born out of a memory. For me it's about the simultaneous strength and fragility of a parent seen through the eyes of a child and just how crazy that is to witness. It's also about the strange static that appears in the air when something violent or something that has the potential to be violent comes out of nowhere.”

—Matthew Dickman

Author


Matthew Dickman

Matthew Dickman’s most recent poetry collection is Wonderland (W. W. Norton, 2018). He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Date Published: 2018-03-16

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/transubstantiation