400 Cans to Lunch

I don’t whine about hunger the way
other kids do when they’re given an apple, 
or told to wait until dinner, or told to wait
when they’re stomping their feet 
while mommy and daddy 
examine the Halloween candies 
for razor blades and cyanide:
I fucking whine

Everyday it’s deviled ham with mayonnaise—
with mayonnaise, mayonnaise, mayonnaise—
enough goddamn mayonnaise 
to make me hate the stuff forever
(unless it’s on a Whopper or something—
then it’s forgivable, and edible—
but listen to me whine like a fucking rich kid).  

My god, 
I wish we could recycle 
Underwood cans for cash
but the redemption center
doesn’t dabble with the devil—
or bottled waters—
just sodas, beers, and tonics. 
In Massachusetts, and in most states, 
it’s five cents a can, twenty cans a buck, 
and dad needs twenty bucks for lunch. 
I never did the math: I was too fucking hungry. 

So, I whine. And my dad smiles, 
encourages me to hang in there, 
says there’s two blocks left on his route—
there’s always two blocks left on his route—
and we’re beating the trash truck 
with our stolen shopping cart
full of slimy, rattling bottles 
and half-empties in a quarter-full twelve pack: 
I never did the math: I was too fucking hungry. 

I know all the bums,
hauling in their weight 
in shopping carts three deep; 
I see them at the Soup Kitchen
when deviled ham is too expensive
or the mayo’s run low, 
but mostly on The Route. 
I wonder if they deserve it, too. 
There’s no Chinese Food in their futures. 
Poor bastards! See you in the Jell-o line! 4

“Tiny piece of bread” by Markus Spiske is licensed under CC0 1.0

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