* — August 30, 2016
Tinou Bao, 2007

Ow wah the black haired man behind the case of meat
said, laughed, face in profile. A sentence I can’t remember.
In his dark cap, nose rounding, dark round laugh,
I saw my uncle Dean who died a few towns up the Cape
last Spring. Wept wide empty aisles of things on sale,
past natural foods, quietly mouthing Ow wah, Ow wah,
with Dean’s intonation, hard on the Ow. I want to go back to
the meat counter man, Say something else. Afraid my greed,
will drive Dean out, & only the meat man will appear,
changed back to who he was & Dean who I’ve loved my whole
life who loved me my whole life will be gone. At the checkout
counter at the hardware store a bald man holds a yellow tape
measure around his skull. Are you measuring your head? I ask.
For a costume, he said. I nod. James appears, tells me a shortcut,
disappears. After I walk by the paint cans & plastic boxes,
James returns, said the shortcut’s no good. It’s even longer,
with walls of snow. I walk the edge of Conwell, a truck unsteady
& fast pushes toward me & another man while we slosh
through melting ice, gray snow shoved to our left in hedges.
It’s not easy, he calls over his tan coat, animal back. I’ll go
back to the meat counter at the Stop & Shop. Ow wah Ow wah
I’ll call like wild animals do, black ducks on the water.
Between us, glass, red meat & white fat, puckered yellow
chickens look cold, in need of a blanket, everything cut & named.

Originally published in No Tokens Issue No. 5. View full issue & more.

Kelle Groom is the author of a memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl (Simon & Schuster), a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, and a Library Journal Best Memoir. Her four poetry collections include Underwater City (University Press of Florida), Luckily, Five Kingdoms, and the forthcoming, Spill (Anhinga Press). A National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, Groom’s work has appeared in AGNI, American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, The New Yorker, New York Times, and Ploughshares. She is on the faculty of the low-residency MFA Program at Sierra Nevada College, Lake Tahoe, and is Director of the Summer Workshops at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. http://www.kellegroom.com/