Social Work

by Patricia L. Hamilton

He bore down on us like a bullet train,
a practiced hustler, importuning.

With Christmas five days away,
what else could we do?

Charging toward the corner sub shop,
he crowed, “I’m’a get two Philly cheesesteaks!”

“One,” we corrected, dragging behind
as if press-ganged, chains clanking.

Bouncing along the counter like a six-year- old
let loose in Toys R Us, he commanded the clerk

to heap his foot-long with bacon, hot peppers,
extra onions. “An’ I wanna box of cookies!”

Beleaguered parents now, we intoned, “One cookie,
one drink,” as he grabbed a pair of bottles.

The young clerk’s eyes took our measure when
she accepted the twenty my husband handed her.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized for nothing
in particular. Commiserating, she replied,

“He knows he’s not s’posed to come round here.”
Hands stuffed in my pockets, I stood watching

as he bounded off, bearer of God’s image,
already a block away, no thank you, no goodbye.


Patricia L. Hamilton is a professor of English at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Her work has recently appeared in Third Wednesday, Plainsongs and Iodine Poetry Journal, and she won the 2015 Rash Award in Poetry. Her debut volume, The Distance to Nightfall, was published in 2014 by Main Street Rag.

Song of Spring
Little Wanderer