Cold green beans stiff
With the frost of plastic packaging
Are the only edible or recognizable
Food on the bright yellow trays.
Other trays shine green,
But they remind me of puke
Which does not help me
Keep my food down.
I set the tray clumsily down
And inspect the greasy cuisine
That makes up elementary school lunch.
They served us rubbery roast beef
Smothered in leathery gravy—
The Wednesday lunch special.
This is the type of meal
Where all of your side dishes run together
Your baked beans spill into your cream corn
Spill into your macaroni—
Until there’s no real discrepancy
Between your peach cobbler
Versus your mashed potatoes.
To drink, they have milk
Chocolate or vanilla, doesn’t matter
Because it’s all become cottage cheese by now.
We also offered Mountain Dew
Which incidentally tastes like
I poke my roast beef,
Confused at its wobbly nature.
Could it actually be chocolate pudding?
I suppose not based on
The corrugated folds of meat
That look like intestines
Which, by the way, is what I suspect
the beef is made out of.
I stare out at the lunch line
Where first graders queue quietly
With their index fingers placed over their lips.
And behind the sneeze glass I spot
These great hunkering beasts,
Sad creatures in scrubs and hairnets,
Operating the rusty ladles
In order to plunge into the muck
With methodical disinterest.
I wonder if these women
Ever, like me, aspired for more
Because I want to become
President of the United States.
Some of my friends, naturally,
Will become actors
Others will play professional football.
Astronauts, video game testers,
And ninjas—these are our dreams.
So I wonder if these women
Always wanted to become lunch ladies.
The kids screaming and shoving,
The constant stench of mystery meat,
The barfing, the barfing—blegh—
Not my dream, but someone’s
To have a hairy mole on their left cheek
To wear latex gloves and scoop slop.
I stir my cold green beans
And start to think of dodge ball
Of the loud slap of the rubber ball
Against the gym floor
These sort of things
Occupy a third grader’s mind,
And I forget about the lumbering ladies
Lurking behind the sneeze glass.