The kitchen is warm, and white
and filled with huge eyes and hungry
hearts. They’ve given me a metal ladle
and I scoop stew into bowls
for a quiet fragile woman
and her coatless daughter
who grins at me minus two front teeth
(did the tooth fairy come?)
and I smile, want to say hello
silently admonish my woolly tongue,
which won’t loose
and there’s such a fullness in my chest
I feel it will spill out into this giant pot of broth
and vegetables and beef
a health code violation, to be certain
and I fear I will be fired before I’ve begun.

A shadow of a man holds his bowl
in both hands, jaw set tight, gaze sure
as if he honestly prefers
this joint to the 5-star
down the street. I am unaware
of my own
disembodied limbs as I dip out his share,
avoid his stare
wondering at what has put me on this side
of the table, and him on the other.

They come, empty
and I fill only bowls
feeling it is not enough
knowing these souls
and hearts
and minds
ache, hollow.

I ladle, and hold my breath
and then my shift is over and I
pull my scarf tight
and go


sure of who I am
than ever before.


I have not returned.



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19 Responses to Soup

  1. whimsygizmo says:

    Written for the Sunday Whirl weekly Wordle. Find the words here, and play along:

  2. brenda w says:

    De, you’ve painted a vivid picture. Lives intersect and sometimes that’s all they do. But the intersections count. I appreciate the server’s self-questioning…how did they end up where they ended up. This is an engaging read.

  3. Moving stuff. I like how each stanza diminishes, stripping away the trappings of the setting to the core emotions of the piece. (But then, those trappings are well-painted, and the Wordle words are expertly folded in.) Totally different from the last one for this Wordle I read. 🙂

  4. De, I love the last three stanzas. Ties up the poem quite nicely.


  5. Your way of saying without saying working perfectly for this piece in particular. Ending especially punchy and proving. Very good, De!

  6. Hard to click “Like,” but I did. This experience resonates, as I have been on both sides of that line. The idea of your very heart busting open into that soup kettle, then concerns on the health code violations… a well-thought-out, poignant piece, De. Glad to read you here. Peace, Amy

  7. Wow! I’m holding my breath and all choked up. This is very sincere. And crazy-good!

  8. pmwanken says:

    De, this was especially poignant to me today — I attended the “Empty Bowls” fundraiser for the local soup kitchen/shelter…an excellent piece!!

  9. Laurie Kolp says:

    Working in a soup kitchen can be very humbling and you’ve demonstrated this in your piece… love it, De.

  10. great job with the wordle. sad, though.
    Best, M.

  11. markwindham says:

    Very good. All the emotions, visuals…a lot here. ‘only fill their bowls’, so true.

  12. Sincerity just shines throughout this poem. Volunteering really does change who we are. Very nice!

  13. De, an eye-opener of a poem.

  14. Lindy Lee says:

    Sad facts well written…

  15. Jamie Dedes says:

    I think this might be one of my faves of the day. I commented in the comments section under your post of this poem, de. Well done … everything well done and entirely fitting. Thank you!

  16. ManicDdaily says:

    Very vivid and very easy to relate to. Wonderful honest and subtle at once. Thanks. k.

  17. Shawna says:

    This is incredible. I especially like the double meaning in “my shift is over.”

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