Vendor writing: A Late Dinner With My Son

Our members regularly provide a platform for under-represented voices. If anyone ever doubted that street paper vendors have something to say, they need only read the imaginative, moving and though-provoking poetry and prose submitted to the INSP Awards, an annual celebration of excellence in street papers.

The category for Vendor Contribution was the most fiercely-contested at the INSP Awards 2015. This year’s winning entry was A Late Dinner With My Son, written by Jennifer Alexandera formerly homeless poet and vendor with American street paper, The Contributor, in Nashville, Tennessee.

Judges said the winner stood out for its “mordant humour and a cutting delivery that immediately puts the reader in their shoes.”

On hearing about her award win, Jennifer contacted INSP to express her happiness and respect for her fellow vendors around the world.

“I encourage [vendors] to keep writing and sharing their stories. Our voices matter.” – Jennifer Alexander

“I usually don’t get much positive feedback for the art work, articles, and poetry I submit to The Contributor here in Nashville. This surprising and unexpected gesture on your part is both greatly appreciated and very encouraging,” she wrote.

“Thank you also for all you do to provide interesting, thought-provoking, and entertaining content for street papers around the world. When I went down hard, one of the newspapers in your network was there to help me get back up. It was an invaluable service. INSP will forever hold a special place in my heart.

“Please pass on my congratulations and deep respect to the other vendor writers in this category. I encourage them to keep writing and sharing their stories. Our nomination as INSP award finalists validates and reinforces the truth of just how valuable we are. Our voices matter. Thank you again for this honor.”

Read Jennifer’s award-winning poem below.

A Late Dinner With My Son
By Jennifer Alexander

Remember that night at
it was about a year ago—
we went to Sammy’s restaurant on Caroline
You ordered a shot and the Mediterranean Plate.
I had water and the avocado, sprouts, and Swiss on whole wheat.
You paid because I didn’t have any money,

We exchanged polite chit chat for a while—
you obsessively fingered your tortoise-shell frames
feeling superior and suspicious the whole time—
me just trying to get to the meat.
Without meaning to, I cut too close to the bone.
Your face, that face I know so well, flushed crimson.
Thunderbolts of ridicule stormed from your mouth,

You started calling names—mocking my bright spirit.
Then you slammed fifty bucks on the table
and headed for the exit,
me following a little behind.
Out on the street, you leaped into the driver’s seat,
gunned the engine, and peeled off into the night
leaving me standing in a Niagara rain on Caroline,

Well, my umbrella was in your car.
I’d like to have it back.


If you enjoyed reading Jennifer’s poem, please share her exceptional work on social media by highlighting the title and choosing Twitter or Facebook.