Wednesday Sep 20

RobertsSuzanne Suzanne Roberts is the author of four book of poems as well as a memoir, Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail (U of Nebraska P, 2012). She teaches English at Lake Tahoe Community College and for the low residency MFA in Creative Writing at Sierra Nevada College. For more information, please visit her website here
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Shopping in Whole Foods with my Indian Mother
Austin, Texas

 
Stevie Nicks sings “Leather and Lace”
over the store’s speakers. You look around
for the woman singing. Then, a voice breaks
the music, notifies us that there will be a free
organic Chardonnay tasting in aisle 13.
A woman in short shorts and a bikini top,
her bare arms painted with blue rose tattoos,
turns from the specialty oils, heads for the wine.
We go to the Culinary Center, sit between
the charcuterie and the gelato. A drunk girl
at the pasta bar turns to us, tells us
that this is the best deal in town,
that is, aside from the tapas bar on 2nd Street
during Happy Hour. Bruce Springsteen sings
“Born in the U.S.A.” Organic packaged goods
line the shelf under a sign that reads
Natural Convenience. The drunk girl says,
“Isn’t it great how we are so green here in Austin?”
Track lighting bounces off the shiny cement floors.
A man with a mohawk unloads plastic
Odwalla juice bottles, his name tag reads Surreal.
The irony of this does not reach you, Amma.
Instead, you are watching a couple help themselves
to the free salsa samples, cringe when you see
that they use both hands to eat.
You finger the shiny cheese graters, wonder why
the vegan flip-flops—comfortable, fashionable,
and sustainable—are hanging next to the pineapples.
The sandals cost 28 dollars—I convert it to rupees,
and you laugh at my joke—the average monthly salary
for an Indian. We pass the personal hygiene section,
and I remember when you shrieked in horror
at the sight of my removing contact lenses
from my eyes, then laughed, asked me
to do this trick again and again. And again.
When you made me curry in India,
you bought the best chicken
from a neighboring woman, killed it,
cooked it with the spices we brought back
from our day trip to Munnar. Here,
happy shoppers wheel by with cartfuls
of artichoke hearts, private label cheeses,
Andalusian marinated green olives.
Pizza rounds, packaged pastas. Pre-
boxed salads stack into tidy plastic rows,
shelf after shelf after shelf.