Service With a Smile

The sandwiches

are made of cardboard

and withered leather;

yet they’re delivered

with a smile

made of spun-gold sunlight.


In the leafy park,

a white van parks

before a hundred hungry souls,

neatly queued.

A nameless volunteer

hands out sandwiches,

two by two, limp squares of nothing much;

the smile she beams

into each blank face

casts a spell of sudden warmth

on this blustery gray-sky day.


The mind behind the smile

teems with calculus and Chaucer,

and with climbing tendrils of romance

with a suntanned boy

in his high-school football jacket.


The soul behind the smile

has escaped

a somber grid of suburban streets

where cookie-cutter houses

are scenes of bitter combat

over heavily-laden dinner tables.


Behind the smile

are memories

of Panama City Spring Break nights

laced with sweaty lust

and chilled tequila shots.


The eyes behind the smile

peer at the rugged reality of the park

where spent men on benches

cradle forty ounces of winter,

where tattered notes of ten and twenty

change hands among the penniless

for purchase and sale

of tiny packets of empty solace.


The hungry men

furtively admire

warm, firm curves behind the smile;

the volunteer

secretly dreams of her football jock.

When sandwiches are gone,

the white van departs, with the smile

and night descends

bringing the men

and the volunteer

hours of lonely solitude.

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We believe ending homelessness begins with listening to the stories of those who have experienced it.