The Men in the White Vans
C. L. Bledsoe

They wake earlier than some go to bed,
the men with hard hands, and every one
of them smiles when he sees my toddler
daughter flounce by. Breakfast is quick
and on the way because there’s no food
in the house, or maybe no peace, and sugar
is cheap. I see them when I leave in the smoky
dark, lining the parking lot, an obstacle course
of battered whaling ships covered with ladders,
poles that resemble harpoons, tools. I don’t
know what they do, but it’s probably anything.
They ease onto the rutted road ahead of me,
stop at 7-11. A man steps out, grinning back
to those still inside, at a joke only they can hear.

C. L. Bledsoe is the author of a dozen books, most recently the poetry collection Riceland and the novel Man of Clay. He lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.