My Mother’s Hands

by Mathew Richard Carter

Those heavy brown doors open the same
way every time, the push of a metal rod
to enter the cafeteria and walk alone
among the crowd. The empty table
has my name all over it – literally!
Some etched cruel taunt about
my name rhyming with fat joke
words where I would
set my bag lunch.

I pull out the squished sandwich
and stare at the jelly oozing
out of incongruent foil seams.
I open the package of wheat and peanut butter
and instantly notice the rush job construction
of this sandwich. I thought about my mother’s
over-worked hands collecting ingredients
while watching the clock the whole time,
from wrapping it to throwing it carelessly
in the bottom of the bag with heavier
items crushing it flat.

It never used to be like this.
She was always conscious
and thoughtful in her pursuits
and would love to please
and want to be sure of it by asking,
“how was your lunch today?”
I think about all this
and look up at the hundreds
of thoughtless kids around me
and lose my appetite. I think
about how guilty I feel
for throwing away
a perfectly good lunch.
I think about my mother’s
hands and how they would
strangle me if she knew
I was doing this.

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