May I Help You

From Writing Notebook 2021, published in 2022.

May I Help You

This cafeteria here
say the starving lunch seekers
they drift in
form a line
ten minutes before the doors open

the heat lamps glow orange-radiant
the metal trays are shiny-empty and full of
Stage fright. Bowls of red jello
burrow further into beds of ice.
Heavy white plates nervous chatter
in their four-stack racks
tension vents from the kitchen
bursts the doors open

Tuna casserole leads the way.
Metal clangs. Spoons clatter.
The servers adjust their caps
retie their aprons

The line for lunch wiggles.
The cashier takes payment
from the first person at the register.