It was a rotten week, all because of a scheduled phone call. When a phone call is scheduled, you know it’s gonna be bad. I tried to take myself out to lunch at my favorite sandwich shop to fortify myself, but I was greeted by a letter on the door, telling me it was closed and why.
I broke down sobbing. I was inconsolable the rest of the day, all because I could not get their veggie sandwich with turkey. (Yes, I contradict myself. I contain multitudes.)
It’s difficult to see when you’re in the thick of a crisis, but you can look for the poetry that’s there, because it is there. You can see it in the themes, the metaphors, the rhythm and flow, what words are used and how they are used. And finding the poetry in the crisis will suggest the path forward.
So, we were both having a crisis—the family who owned the sandwich shop and I. Now, I should’ve felt compassion for the owners, the Bedfords. They’re closing their shop because their daughter, who was born with a rare disease, isn’t doing well. But that day, all I could see was that I wasn’t getting my sandwich—the one I needed to fortify myself for the phone call.
Where’s the poetry in that?
I sent an email to a friend and asked her to pray about the phone call. I also told her about the sandwich shop closing. I didn’t tell her why.
She sent another email the next morning to ask how the phone call went. I told her it didn’t go well.
“Hm….man. Is the sandwich place open today?” she asked.
“It’s closed closed. That’s why I was sobbing,” I wrote. I didn’t tell her why. I didn’t want her to know how petty I was.
“Ack!!” she wrote, followed shortly afterward by another email that said, “You’ve got enough grief and loss in your life without having the lunch treat, a little refuge, taken from you. Quick, let’s think of some purchase-able pleasure in town…..Was this the one that closed, Java Ranch? How about the Nest? Alamo Springs Cafe? Clear River Pecan Bakery? Woerner? Sweet Marley’s?”
I wrote back, “Sweet Marley’s is what closed. I like Woerner’s. (It’s also a feed store.) Alamo Springs is great when it’s warm—always full of motorcyclists, the kind of place where you just grab your beer from the fridge. Clear River is best for dessert. The Nest is super fancy. Never been. Maybe I’ll take my computer to Woerner’s. I have lots of editing. thank you.”
So, I slipped my laptop into my red case and took off for Woerner’s. I ordered their tuna sandwich that comes with lots of veggies and a good side salad.
I ate. I edited. I checked my email. My friend forwarded that day’s selection from Every Day Poems. It was called “The Woman at the Stoplight” by Claire Bateman. “I felt you in this poem,” she wrote.
I see in her face
that oh, she needs it too—
Yes, my friend knew exactly what I needed.
so with the full force
of my small ferocity,
She made sure that I got a sandwich. And after the sandwich, I went home and took a long nap. I woke up actually feeling refreshed, which felt wrong because the crisis surrounding the phone call was still a crisis. But my body was acting like a body, responding to having had a good sandwich and a good nap. And a good poem.
for a breath
or only just
The poem and the sandwich gave me a stanza break from my crisis. Sure, I would’ve preferred a Sweet Marley’s sandwich and to have avoided that stupid phone call in the first place. But Marley’s parents would prefer that their daughter not have RCDP, rhizomelic chondrodysplasia punctata, and that they not need to close their restaurant to care for her.
This is what I know to be true—I live in a body that needs sandwiches, especially during a crisis when I can’t see the way forward. I also need poetry, it’s themes and metaphors and rhythm and flow, what words are used and how, like Glynn says.
The sandwich was over and done with in half an hour. The poem I printed to save in my scrapbook. If I really, really, really decide I can’t live without a Sweet Marley’s sandwich, I can drive out to a nearby state park, where they are operating a food truck. Sure, 15 miles seems like it’s out of the way, but as the poem says, that’s “far from too much / to ask.”
What would it cost
Less than 10 bucks.
Despite this double crisis (the daughter’s illness and the storefront closing), Marley’s family is looking to the future. Here’s what the the end of the letter posted on their restaurant door reads:
We are looking forward to the future and all that it has in store. God’s plan, while not always understood, is perfect. Perhaps that future will hold a new version of Sweet Marley’s.
No poet could have said it better.