Smoked Paprika

Come in from the cold,
feel warm right inside
the door where you lightly
stomp your feet to feel the
ground undeniable again.

In the corner on a small riser
they sit on a stool singing
battered songs in a voice
as raspy and worn
as the guitar they strum.

Wait staff attend your every desire —
speaking ingredients like spells,
options made to order, the nightly
soup special, the right beer
to sip while you wait.

The clock on the wall
is a couple of hours wrong
but the seconds keep ticking
toward the inevitable
in perpetuity.

The musician paints mournful
murals of broken bones,
ruptured hearts swept into piles
by the janitors of injustice,
the cleansers of history.

Pull out your pen & notebook,
pick a table by the window —
there the dim indoor light subsides
to the light of the lamppost
on the corner outside.

Lift your first spoonful
of soup to your lips,
test the temperature, slowly
sip fully into your mouth
and know love is always possible.

See all the tattered souls
sitting at the scattered tables
around you — they too all come here
for this soup, for these songs,
for this knowing we’re not alone.

Community garden vegetables, noodles,
and broths flavored nightly anew.
This time like last time like next time
you wonder how this soup is salvation.
Tonight we answer, “The smoked paprika, perhaps.”

Photo by Akhil Chandran on Unsplash