Chicago Food Desert

On paydays she gets off work early,
walks to the food bus.
Old people are always the first in line,
but she waits and when she gets on
there are wooden crates instead of seats.
She buys lettuce and tomatoes,
sweet onions, gold potatoes,
lemons and garlic.
Last time they had purple carrots;
her son was fascinated by those.
This time they have yellow squash.
On the way home she walks by 4 liquor stores;
the one across from her apartment
is called Orion Liquor.
In the spring, birds build nests in the O’s.
Her son noticed this.
There’s a Cubs Billboard above the store.
They haven’t won a World Series
in over 100 years.
This doesn’t matter to her;
she takes her son to White Sox games.
He likes his hot dog with ketchup and chili,
hopes for Adam Dunn to hit a homerun.
They have a new manager, Robin Ventura.
He once picked a fight with Nolan Ryan,
charged the mound without a second thought
only to end up black-eyed and bloodied.
The people on the food bus tell her
how to prepare the squash.
She bakes it so it will get sweet
and maybe her son will like it.
He comes home from school;
he wanted purple carrots again
but they eat the baked squash together
and he decides it’s not so bad.
At school the teacher asks the kids:
Bananas are what color?
They all say brown. He says yellow.
The teacher gives him a coupon
as a reward: a free hot dog at the ballpark
to be redeemed between the 17th and 20th
of that month. If he wants chili, it’s extra.

Originally published in Iron Horse Literary Review, Issue 18.4 Sports, 2016