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The line forms at five o’clock,
mostly long-haired, bearded men
wearing dirty winter coats, torn pants;
some women with blackened eyes,
some with missing teeth,
each sliding a tray to be filled
with a bowl of soup
a hot meal.

The television is on.
Some stay for the evening
reading, talking, playing cards.
For the most part
the evening is jovial,
an occasional argument,
fights are taken outside.

I look on,
wipe tables when people leave,
take dirty dishes to the kitchen.
Everyone is out by nine o’clock
so that cots may be set up
for those spending the night.

Sleeping is crowded.
Someone comes in late,
starts punching the walls,
fights break out because of snoring,
someone tries to steal a cell phone —
a typical night
at the soup kitchen.