In Another Life

Lunch, George Tooker, 1964, 
Columbus Museum of Art

In another life,
she wouldn't dare
eat an ordinary
peanut butter sandwich
in public,
and certainly
not while sitting 
shoulder to shoulder
with  strangers.

She  prefered
the corner booth
at a high brow cafe
with her snooty friends;
endive salad
with blue cheese and walnuts,
a tall glass of wine,
but that was then...
in another life.

The hunger pains
are especially raw
and the coffee is so hot
she can feel it hit
her stomach with a warm
splash, sending heat waves
all the way down to her toes,
numb from standing on the line
for five hours straight,
without a break.

So she doesn't waste a second
worrying about used- to- bes
and memories-
they all fell in the slop bucket
(as her father used to say);
along with with every last one of her 
"I wants"
and "I needs" 
and her over-inflated dignity;
when Joe lost his job.

Her vanity is also gone-
it left with the last hundred dollar
hair do- slow to leave
as it grew out, 
but gone, nonetheless. 

And she grins just a tiny grin
as she remembers the bright red
band in her hair;  the one
her youngest daughter used to wear 
to tame her wild curls.

And she thinks how easy
and absolutely free  
it was  to make herself 
feel  pretty today.

The break clock is ticking
so she doesn't waste time
looking  around for conversation

No one is here for socializing
they all know the drill-
pray first, 
eat fast-
minds elsewhere.

More takes on the prompt over at Magpie Tales


  1. Oh, good take on the picture. I like this angle, and love your last line, 'minds elsewhere'

  2. it has a truly humbling effect to go from haves to have least for those that survive that fall...

  3. I don't know why, but each piece that I am reading tonight is just superb and your is just that: superb. You have really caught the flavor that this economy has imparted to so many.

  4. Wow ... Katie is FAT. She should me Boy-Boy, he weighs 20 pounds. I really like katie.

  5. Dear Southwest Arkie: "minds elsewhere" is really a good point, as well as the lives that eat here, life is basement bargin here! Excellent poem; thought provoking and real life! Chiccoreal

  6. Thank you all for stopping by-I appreciate your comments. Old Raven- you made me laugh out loud- YES, Katie is a fat cat!

  7. You have treated this very sobering thought with some wry humour, well done.

  8. Sad, but beautifully written. Loved reading it! :)

  9. This is so nice -- well told! (And Happy Anniversary!)

  10. You had me wondering how this one was going to end. The finish, when it came, was fitting and made sense of the whole. A fine, strong poem which I very much enjoyed.

  11. Moving, powerful, well written...

  12. Very powerful, especially the line, "They all know the drill." Impressive little slice of life!

  13. A sobering post as the season of overindulgence looms for many...


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