Two Poems

Zero Waste

In the dining room,
prominently displayed, 
there’s a hardback book titled,
Silo: The Zero Waste Blueprint.

Behind a wall,
the turkey vultures
have been at it again:
beaks and talons tearing
trash bags open
from bursting, overstuffed bins. 

The only cook on duty today
has too much on his plate—
not least a crimson red tide
of beetroot vinegar
surging out of its container
onto the floor,
attempting to escape.

So, I head outside. The rats 
scatter as I pick up
a blood-stained Kleenex,
wilted flowers,
and a welcome card
left by long gone guests.

Give Yourself a Little Space

On the notice board next to the timesheets 
a cutely illustrated poster urges you
to give yourself a little space:
a reminder
to the cooks clocking out of a sixteen-hour shift
or sneaking in on their day off 
to work extra, unpaid hours
(there’s too much to do 
and never enough  hands to do it).

At first, I thought it was cool 
we did a meditation
at the end of our daily meeting. 
But ten minutes of closed eyes on the clock
turned out to be an “optional” use of
my paid ten-minute breaks.

We had a walkout. 
The newest cook, right 
before service. Crying.

No one followed him,
no one tried to get him to stay.
Chef and the other cooks—
they made it work.

Alexander Matthews

Alexander Matthews is a freelance writer and editor who lives near Ukiah. His poetry has been published by&Change, Spectra Poets, The Bloom and Ons Klyntji. Shortly after moving to Northern California from South Africa, he had a stint working as an innkeeper at Harbor House (an inn with a Michelin-starred restaurant) in Elk. He prefers Dr Kristin Neff’s self-compassion meditations to Headspace.