Grass Soup, No. 2
On the BBC documentary on the famine in South Sudan, it was plain to see what was going on.
Women, mothers, were on their haunches, cutting grass and bundling it up. They would take it back to
their makeshift camps—out in the open, in the harsh sun. They would make a fire and put a pot of
water on to boil—held up by flat stones.
They were gathered in a camp: refugees from the civil war at the inception of the breakaway
state of South Sudan. The BBC team asked a mother what she was doing.--She was boiling the grass to
feed it to her small children. The children would end up vomiting it all up, but, she said, “it was better
to have them put something in their empty stomachs than nothing at all—even if they ended up
vomiting it all up again.” One wondered how long that could go on…You knew the little kids would
get weak—their bellies bloating up--get diarrhea and die…
Sometimes—not often enough—a UN refugee relief plane would land and taxi in on the flat
land. There would be boxes of dry goods—rice, wheat, sugar, salt, maybe millet—to be
distributed—never enough…One wondered how long this could go on and who would make it
In a real sense, we produce the best of what we produce because we know that there were many
of us who could not make it through. The many dead piggyback on us and flower over and over
through us. Every day I remember some of their names. Every day, I say in my mind what they said.
You see, the dead speak through us. When they are not desperate, they encourage us. They say:
“You should eat--as we could not. Eat for us.
Make enough food for your children--as we could not.
Feed the planet--as we could not.
Keep the planet alive for your children and your children’s children.
Plant crops on other planets so we can all live
through the children yet to come. They are our children, too.
Save a place at your dinner table for the future.
Save some food, like Joseph in Egypt, for the famine beyond tomorrow.
Have you eaten, yet, today?”
Q.R.Quasar is a poet, playwright, novelist & scholar/translator of Arabic & Persian poetry/philosophy (Ph.D., UCLA). Poems/translations in Poetry, Hawaii Review, Al-Arabiyya, Blackbox, etc. Among his 11 books are Buddha Time (Global Scholarly Pubs. [GSP]: gsp-books.org), Ocean of Suns (GSP), Watching the Universe Die (GSP), & Expanse of Green (transl. Persian poetry of Sepehry: UNESCO/Kalimat). Awards: 1st Prize, Chicago Poetry Festival; Columbia Univ. Transl. Prize, Int'l Scholar of the Year (1998: for Persian transls.). TV/radio readings in Persian/English: Europe, Asia, USA. Live readings: Iran, Russia, China, USA. Founding member, S.F. Bay Area Poets Coalition.