Un-Common Table


and a man walks from the ice.

I greet him

seat him and he pulls from his empty pocket,

wooden nickel.

To pay for a meal

he cannot afford,

to miss

I put the wood grained meal

back in his leathered hand.

“you don’t need this to-day”

“no one will charge you to-day”

“today you can just


Bring him

moist turkey

cranberry sauce

home-made stuffing, green beans, yams, mashed potatoes

and gravy.

And Water

And Coffee.

and he eats

morsels of flavor explode between teeth

against gums, tart puckers lips in a mouth full of

empty for too long.

and he drinks

each swallow oasised

washing sour-tart

cleansing the sweet salt and fat.

his Plate Empty

I ask,

“would you like some more?”

His eyes plead me

“I do”,

he says, “but

it’s just that

it’s been a while since I…”

he sighs and his eyes are suddenly mine

tired, humble,

not wanting to

burden another with a dark secret

“don’t worry” they said

“I’m okay” they said

“I can do this” they said

and I know the shame of hunger,

the filth of poverty

so I raise my hand

to stop his speech

“it’s okay bro… I’ve been there”

His shoulders rest

eyes stop pleading

and his jaw unclenches

from a secret we bear together

And I smile

to hide my watering eyes

and he smiles

to hide our dirty hunger

our filthy poverty

with his strong back

small stomach

pocket full of

wooden nickel

and black coffee.

© Michael Barry 2013