“What’ll it be, folks,” the waiter asked

“Last call for coffee”

I sat toying with shreds of paper napkins

while next to me, Melvin

gravely contemplated the question,

as though he might have more than

two nickels in his pocket

to pay for our coffee.

Across from us, a man sat

nursing a cup of coffee and the thought

crossed my mind that he might not have

even one nickel to pay for Phillies

bottomless coffee cup.

Philly, I knew, was in the kitchen

washing up pots and pans,

and didn’t suffer fools gladly.

You had better have a nickel in your pocket

when you sat down to order,

or Philly might take you out to the back alley

and give you a knuckle sandwich.

I didn’t recognize the stranger;

I didn’t know if eh knew about knuckle sandwiches.

Our waiter was just a kid,

Happy to have a job, any job,

in these hard times,

Even in the south side of town

where most of the buildings around Phillies

were vacant.

but the kid knew enough to whistle

for Philly to come out front

if there was trouble

over a nickel cup of coffee.


Sandra Lee smith

Originally compost April 18, 2009

Updated July 19, 2018

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