Ten men clamber out of the creaking van,
Their sweaty bodies meeting a kiss
Of cool night air.
They drift, silently, sullenly
Toward the darkened church.
Mattresses lie, two or three to a room,
Along walls decorated with children’s
Drawings and almost casual crucifixions.
Carl, Eddie, Jake and the others
Throw their worn packs and bags
Onto the makeshift beds, and John,
It’s always John, is first to ask
If he can have his sack lunch now,
Not in the morning as we had planned.
“Sure,” I say, almost as anxious as he
To assuage this remediable hunger.
Several echo John, and soon all
Are feasting on pb and j; apples, celery,
And other healthy fare remains on the table,
But they’re happier now, even communicative.
One thanks me for setting a new pair of white socks
On each mattress. Another offers a juice cup
To a friend. “Lights out!” Rick calls at ten,
And no one argues, no one hesitates. Sleep
Knits once more the raveled sleeve of care,
Obliterates the hurt, soothes the jangled nerves.
Tomorrow will be another day,
Another cheerless day embroidered
With small triumphs, fragile dreams.