Dorothy Field
"Food Bank"

My regular Friday shift, 10:00 am the doors open:
a phalanx of men, mostly middle years, locomotive force
surging forward, faces ruddy, hair grizzled, a few dapper, most
wrapped
in dirty winter coats, worn jackets, roaring down the steps

to the church basement, grab a number, heads down
if it’s their first time, a bit of swagger if they know the ropes.
The early ones slide into seats at the long table, others head for
cups of orange juice, the scant homemade goodies, squash

from someone’s garden. They scan the photocopied list:
pork and beans, mac and cheese, canned corn, canned soup, canned
peas,
small packets of sugar, powdered milk, coffee, film canisters
of cooking oil, a roll of toilet paper. Peanut butter runs out

fast, only instant noodles, 5-bean soup mix, rolled oats
if you’re late. There’s a run on Spam. And the two tins
of salmon, the one bag of potato chips, the jar of Nutella.
The things no one wants linger: capers, water chestnuts,

bottle of ReaLemon, what church people donate
when they clean their cupboards. Women straggle in slow today,
worn like mamma cats, kids in snowsuits or at school,
a few well-dressed like they work downtown

but the paycheck just won’t stretch.
We take the old Chinese men to the back room,
let them point. Try to find something for the ones
with no stove or no can opener or no teeth.

Listen to Dorothy Field read "Food Bank" here.

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