Food Talk · Poetry

my harlem lunch hour

slabs of seedless watermelon
lush pink and bright yellow next door

i’ve never had the yellow but i want yellow i want
something close to sun

heirloom tomatoes all the way from his garden in Jersey
sit on storefront windowsills sunning til a red he is fond of blooms

to then be chopped along with cucumbers and parsley
a salad sold for simple souls at a shop called 7 Grains

i order my usual no matter how hot of a day it is
split pea unlike any other split pea with it’s
ham-less, Moroccan flare.
he takes out a bottle of all natural soy sauce and
taps it over your legumes tap tap tap 3 times exactly.
“we don’t use salt here.” but they sure use spice.
i taste cumin. cayenne. garlic. paprika. “do you want
a spoonful of brown rice with that?” yes.
and then a final finishing tap of cayenne before
it gets it’s lid and i hand over $4.50.

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back at work, i asked my boss’ son what he’s having for lunch.
it’s become a ritual, before sharpening pencils and binding books
and sorting papers and making calls,
i must know what everyone is eating.

“marco polo,” he says.
the name of a sandwich that was
poorly selected for him to choose from on
a menu with 20-something other poorly-named sandwiches.
no, what is in your sandwich?
he doesn’t know he says with a shrug.
i place the lid back on my split pea and push it aside.
i tell him to take a big bite, chew slowly, and name what you can taste.

after a long moment, eyelids fly open and he names
lettuce
tomato
turkey?–no, chicken.
he’s smiling as he stares deeply between two slices of Italian bread and says,

“marco polo, are they serious?”

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