An old woman moves toward me,
using her cart as a walker,
head hunched 
into fragile shoulders.
I see her often here,
respect her painful travel
through the aisles,
her persistence wearing a groove
in her wake.
This time, as we pass, 
the lane pulses
with invisible ripples—
all the breathing and choosing,
reaching and stooping
of those past, those to come.
I grip my cart, one with all of them.
Melons, lemons, color and order
have lost their power to soothe.
I study my list, 
matching word to thing.
At the checkout 
my name is unfamiliar,
but I smile the usual ‘thanks’
and ‘take cares,’ 
crafting my own rift
in the air.

Nikia Leopold’s poems have appeared in various magazines, including the American Scholar, Commonweal, Measure, the Southern Review, and Poetry. Her chapbook Small Pleasures won the 2012 Blue Light Press contest, and her second book, Healing with Shadows, was published in January 2021. She lives in Ruxton, Maryland.

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Published in the December 2020 issue: View Contents
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