“You Have The Right to Food Money.”

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I pulled my car into a parking space.
Focused on the ferocity of my broken muffler,
It shook the car and hummed a low bass,
That drowned out the radio announcement
Of another Bush running for president.
Having no time for politics
I killed the car and began walking
Towards the entrance of the Food Pantry.

A trio of smokers was huddled near the entrance sign.
Their winter breaths synonymous with the exhales of smoke
Erupting from their mouths.

As I opened the door
A fog followed behind me.
Bellowing like a smoke bomb exploded
Before a crowd of rioters.

But the faces of the people
Lined up to the door
Was not that of frenzied protesters.
Rather, they wore scowls which were accentuated
By their wrinkles. Their eyes and skin yellow
From hepatitis, or jaundice. Some form of illness
Prevalent in those that have experienced the loneliness
Of an empty pill bottle,
Or an empty liquor bottle.

A brunette woman
With white roots was seated behind the counter.
She cupped her hands into a makeshift megaphone
And shouted:
“Everyone please notice we have a new policy!
“Only one adult is allowed to collect food per household!
“I have nothing to do with this new policy, so please…”
Her voice lowered to a softer tone.
“Don’t bitch to me about it.”

The people in line moaned and sighed at the announcement.
An older woman turned to her husband and said:
“Guess we’ll need to eat
“At the Salvation Army
“Couple times this week.”
He scratched his long, gray, Homeresque beard,
“Appears so…” He said.

I directed my eyes away from the people
Towards a bookshelf stationed near the entrance.
“Are those free?” I asked the woman behind me.

“Ohhh, you betcha.”
She responded in a voice
Rough as an old vinyl record.

“Would you mind holding my place in line
“While I go look at them?” I said.

“Go ahead and look sweetheart.”
She smiled. Her teeth glowed yellow from plaque.
“I have nowhere else to be.”

Inching my feet,
I stepped out of line,
Scrolled my eyes across the titles.
I read them aloud
As if I was reciting off cue-cards.

“Heart of Darkness…got it.
“How to Improve Your Life Without Really Trying…don’t need it.
“DIANE WAKOSKI EMERALD ICE!”

I pulled the book out,
The two collections of literature
Which surrounded it
Fell towards each other.
Creating a freestanding triangle.

“What are you doing here my beautiful poetess!?”
I placed the book in my coat pocket
And continued looking.
My eyes ceased as they came across Atlas Shrugged.
Not owning a copy,
I grabbed it and dropped it in my other coat pocket.

Satisfied with my findings
I positioned back in line.

“Find anything good?”
The yellow teethed woman asked.

“One book about a tough bitch
“And one book about a lost soul.”
I held up both titles before her eyes.

“Which is which?” She questioned.

I looked at them.
“Ya know, it doesn’t really matter.”

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