Sharon Whitehill

A woman at a drive-through window. She's wearing a headset, glasses, a denim shirt, and a green apron with the Starbucks logo. She's smiling brightly. On the ledge outside the window are some very large white flowers in a plastic to-go cup. Trees and blue sky are reflected on the window glass.

Photo Credit: Wonderlane/Flickr (CC-by)

One smile begets another; one kind gesture invites another. —Kathleen Parker

Everybody in Starbucks looks happy:
the freckled barista taking my order,
the line of workers pulling espresso
and steaming the milk,
even the handful who service the drive-through.
A vortex of forest-green aprons:
liquid chlorophyll swirled in water,
everyone pleased to be part of the dance.

I remark on the ambient mood
to the woman calling finished orders.
“I have a good team,” she agrees,
smartly snapping the lid on my cup.

Sipping the tall cappuccino,
I think of my sister’s account
of the frazzled woman at Walmart
who mistakenly smacked her cart
on the bench where my sister sat:
a startling BANG of metal on metal.

A quick reassurance—
“I’m not hurt, it’s okay”—
kindled relief in the woman’s eyes
before a stern husband hustled her off.

Far-reaching how governed we are
by the humors of strangers.
How simple compassion can solace.
How rancor can taint the whole day.


Sharon Whitehill is a retired English professor from West Michigan now living in Port Charlotte, Florida. In addition to poems published in various literary magazines, Sharon’s publications include two scholarly biographies, two memoirs, two poetry chapbooks, and a full collection of poems. Email: bambisharon[at]