Dad’s Lunch Box
by Donna Hilbert

Dad climbs down
the telephone pole,
stretches out under a pepper tree,
opens his lunch box:
black metal,
substantial like a vault,
or a government building
in a Balkan country.
Under its dome
wire arms hold
a Thermos of coffee.
On the bottom floor,
Vienna sausages on a bed
of mayonnaise, white bread.
For dessert, butterscotch
cream-center cookies.
Dad unwraps a sandwich, eats.
He pours coffee into the cup
his Thermos lid makes,
dips a cookie, watches it bloat,
then holds his lips to the rim,
slips the sweet bits
into his mouth.
I like to think
he savors pleasure
before he stands the box on one end,
touches a forefinger to his tongue,
his damp fingertip
gleaning crumbs
to feed the sparrows who wait
in slender leaves.
Then, one foot
over the other,
he climbs the pole again.

Originally appeared in Traveler in Paradise (PEARL Editions, 2004).

PHOTO: The author’s parents, Pollyanna and Don Bruster, during the mid-1960s.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My mom and dad spent their entire working lives in what in this pandemic time would be considered essential services: Mom as a postal clerk and Dad as a telephone lineman. If they were working today, they would be masked and working for the common good as they did on every workday of their lives.

HILBERT 2 copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Donna Hilbert’s latest book is Gravity: New & Selected Poems (Tebot Bach, 2018). She is a monthly contributing writer to the on-line journal Verse-Virtual. Her work has appeared numerous publications including Rattle, The Los Angeles Times, Braided Way, Chiron Review, A Year of Being Here, Cultural Weekly, Sheila Na Gig, Zocalo Public Square, and is widely anthologized. She writes and leads private workshops in Southern California, where she makes her home. Visit her Amazon author page, find her on Facebook and at her website, donnahilbert.com.