Candice Kelsey πŸ”ˆ

On Aisle 16

A puff of cold wakes her. Strangers open and close freezer doors to find the things they’ll bring back to their houses where they’ll open and close their own freezer doors. She is on the ground with back to glass. Curled up like a frozen samosa fallen from its carton, exiled from some dumpling family of perfect corners. Waking is a kind of melting. She nods to shoppers like they have solidarity. The absurdity of commerce unites them, or so she thinks.
She reaches for her clavicle to adjust the

braided chain
made of finest silver from the North of Spain
a locket that bears the name
of the man that

as she realizes there’s no necklace. Instead, she hears the grocery store playlist and does her best to understand.
Slowly she unfolds her edges to stand. The third Blue Moon at Applebee’s is what did her in. She makes a pledge: Never wander the aisles of Kroger drunk. Especially when you miss your childhood home, your mother who clapped when you tap danced on linoleum. Your father before dementia closed the door behind his eyes. Your brothers before they met their busy wives. She considers asking someone to put her in their cart. No one hears her puff, Take me home.

Small, Cold, Rocky Object

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union downgraded Pluto to a dwarf planet.

My 7-year-old son wears his Pluto t-shirt on free-dress days. A show of solidarity, tiny boy planet himself. Some nights he prays bring Pluto back during our bedtime routine. I followed a Fans of Pluto Facebook page, but it’s some rock band from the UK. One of their bonus tracks is titled “Blue Dog Blues” (5.22) – just about the length of time it takes third graders to wiggle back to class after the bell & turn to page 72 in the seaboard galaxy of textbook matter. Their eyes find Pluto described as a small, cold rocky object.
When I was 19, I worked at the housing office to help with tuition. My boss – the Director of Student Housing – had a funny routine for me: Come into my office, turn yourself around. His eyes would orbit my legs, waist, & breasts. I learned to feel cold, small. The Western clock tower on campus housed 14 bells weighing up to 2,000 pounds each. Its chimes signaled time for class. Feeling dwarfed, I’d open my Norton’s Anthology to Chaucer’s Wife of Bath and begin to understand what men fear most.

Author Reading

About the Author

Candice M. Kelsey (she / her) is a poet, educator, activist, and essayist from Ohio living bicoastally in Los Angeles and Georgia. Her work appears in Passengers Journal, Variant Literature, The Laurel Review, Grub Street, Poet Lore, Lumiere Review, Hawai’i Pacific Review, and Poetry South, among other journals. Candice was chosen as a finalist in Iowa Review’s Poetry Contest, Cutthroat’s Joy Harjo Poetry Prize, and Best Microfiction 2023. She also serves as a poetry reader for The Los Angeles Review. Find her on Twitter @candicekelsey1 and at

Buy the Book

Both poems appear in The Poet Dreams of Driving a Ding-a-Ling Ice Cream Truck & Other Means of Escape, available on Amazon.