Theophilus the Planter
A seed from a crumpling brown paper bag,
Tenderly touched from my Father’s hand into mine.
Seed so lonesome in soil, ever in my heart.
I encouraged my seed, yet, walked away.
Struggling seed in the depth and darkness, worried sleep.
Repetitious words of weather began to unsettle,
Found in the garden again, I hungered.
Watchful for answers to troubling words of life.
At last, my plant and I.
Click on the file below to listen to Dave read his poem:
Ronald David Myers currently serves as a faculty member for the University of Maryland Extension, as the Area Extension Educator delivering agricultural programs for Anne Arundel and Prince George’s Counties. His Extension program responsibilities include all field crop and livestock agriculture, with a research emphasis on fruit and vegetable production and pesticide use and safety. Dave’s Ramble, stories of the Crops Master, are a featured column in “Ag News” on-line at: https://extension.umd.edu/anne-
Fear of Yeast: A Broken Pantoum
I am riding to plague again.
Sometimes under a sooty wash
From the grate in the burnt-out gable
I see the needy in a small pow-wow.
What do I say if they wheel out their dead?
I’m cauterized, a black stump of home.
I confess, I am terrified of yeast.
The precision of baking is dark magic to me--
like counted cross stitch I attempted as a child
I spent 40 days sewing, pulling, fixing my mistakes.
The precision of baking is dark magic to us.
Fungus bubbles in water. We feed on what’s unclean.
We spend years sewing, pulling, fixing our mistakes,
seeking dollars, hours, fishes and loaves to feed too many.
Poison bubbles in their rivers. We feed them what’s unclean.
Our powder in the cupboard long expired, nothing rises.
Not enough dollars, hours, fishes and loaves to feed too many.
Excuses waft like steam for why we never bake.
The dreams so long expired fall like powder--dust in eyes.
We remember love we stitched together as a child
and pound excuses out as our dirty fingers knead,
even as we shiver, terrified of yeast.
Sally Toner is a high school English teacher who has lived in the Washington, DC area for almost 25 years. She lives in Reston with her husband, at times her two grown daughters, and a Russian Blue named Chris.
People protest in peace
Same people, same pain
Signs echo same refrain
Help us, “we can’t breathe”
Sign: Covid 19 Pandemic
No plan to see
More virus and death
Truth is silenced
Sign: Black Lives Matter
No peace to be
More racism and inequality
Reach is silenced
Sign: Environmental Justice
No place to be
More sick and swamped
Action is silenced
Sign: Climate Change
No planet B
More fires and floods
Science is silenced
People cry in harmony
Same message, better means
Signs echo same refrain
“We can breathe, again”
Click on the file below to hear Liz read her poem:
Liz Davenport of Silver Spring, MD - Love of nature led to education and career in environmental science and policy. MPA from Harvard’s Kennedy School broadened my world view. Writing poetry centers my soul for peace and hope for the future.
Prayer Line in Koreatown LA
I watched the line in Koreatown LA wrap around the city block
As if the city of Jericho resided inside and with a shout it would fall.
The voice of pandemic screams at the empty garden.
There is quiet order like rows in a field, no messiness.
A standing line awaiting to be blessed.
Like traditional seedlings, the environmental yield is low.
Low income, lower level, low budget, lowly.
The choir at Immanuel Church a cappella
Holding what is left of the relics of a food desert. The church was
Built in 1882, the year Charles Darwin died.
Where is the Humanity in all this?
A complex phenomenon of food pantries, soup kitchens
Church side doors and Mother Mary.
Who sees her children hungry waiting to be fed.
Food as sacred as the loaves broken to feed the multitudes,
Its sovereignty violated by principalities drunk on exploitation.
The numbers rise 120, 500, 1000, 2000 in line,
Now regulars among the cries from the Mother of Exiles.
Shall we paint the nave golden? Perhaps the one
that Emma Lazarus wrote about the year after Darwin died.
Here the huddled masses yearn to eat, to work, all essential.
Standing quietly together just one of a million measured miles.
The tide has come bringing pandemic pandemonium.
Here the church Immanuel sustains us, shows us how to pray.
This poem has appeared in The Rising Phoenix Review.
Click on the file below to hear Patti read her poem:
Patti Ross aka "little pi" is Orator, Poet, Poor Peoples Advocate, and Feminist Warrior.
Her debut chapbook, St. Paul Street Provocations, will be released in August 2021 by Yellow Arrow Publishing. Her blog: www.littlepisuniverse.com
Seed, so tightly wound,
a tiny world waiting
for rain, rays, and
to uncage your dream
unfurl your flag
create this intention
of brown and bright green.
Stem and leaves growing
as you open to the earth,
your small hands reach out
like rivulets, upward flowing
toward the nurturing sun.
Seed, this is the hope
you hold, our heritage
wrapped up in just one
small ovule, bud, grain,
to place in our pockets,
save for our children who,
like us, will pray for rain,
for many good seeds
that send green hands up
through generous soil
to proliferate, proffer, feed
the world. We plant and plow
for those in the womb
and onward to the white haired
among us, believing now
is the time to end hunger.
Seed, your dream is our harvest.
Together we nourish,
embody your wonder.
Here is the link to Zeina's video of her reading her poem: https://youtu.be/WspyzkYdjuE
Zeina Azzam is a Palestinian American poet, writer, editor, and community activist. Her poems have been published in a number of literary journals and anthologies including Pleiades, Sukoon Magazine, Mizna, Split this Rock, Cordite Poetry Review, Making Mirrors: Writing/Righting by Refugees, and Gaza Unsilenced. She serves on the board of Growing Palestine, an organization that supports farmers in the West Bank and Gaza. Zeina holds an M.A. in Arabic literature from Georgetown University.
Photo credit: Jeff Norman
Seek the water
Of whole foods,
And rezoned minds.
Despair sits waiting,
In the bottom,
Of every bottle
At a liquor store.
When organic foods,
Are really needed to feed,
The hungry heart.
In redlined isolation.
Hearts are destroyed,
With complete desolation.
Nourishment needs to be soul deep.
Deeper than skin tone,
Deeper than backgrounds,
Deeper than stereotypes.
An unassembled puzzle,
We struggle towards wholeness.
Unity is the base of community,
If we do not grow together,
We will fall apart.
Peace is only found,
When the pieces of you matter,
To becoming wholly me.
Sustain the Beat
Hungry for change
We can sustain,
Looking towards the future.
The march of quiet feet,
To the beat,
Of voices raised in unity,
Seeking true community,
Gives us hope for growth.
And outstretched hands,
Join in one gesture,
Of solidified solidarity.
To sustain the beat,
Of positive change,
And act with love.
The future is only as bright,
As our collective light.
Click on the files below to listen to Brittany read her poems:
Brittany Sabatino is an Italian-American a poet working in the Washington, DC area. She has also been published by Thirteen Myna Birds, Scarlet Leaf Review, Dyst Literary Journal and is a contributor in Spilled Ink and Fae Corps Inc. poetry anthologies. Right now, she is working on a poetry manuscript and trying not to spend all her money on books.
The Full-Fridge Privilege
I saw a video
few months back
showing people ‘round the world in solitude
A ballerina twirled fast and strong on carpet
a guitarist gave a concert to his devoted tabby cat
a painter threw blue at the canvas stretched across his wall
– each alone,
each living their own struggle, but –
each unified in their lonely humanity:
what a tear-jerker! Yes, yes that’s right,
we can all make it through – apart, yet still
with a fridge –
each with a full fridge.
So much more to the story:
and skin and skin
a chasm between
and living hungry.
Puzzled in the attempt to quantify
the boundless emptiness that fills
a stomach pressing concave toward the spine –
the contradiction crowds out any concern for unity.
Seeing the beauty in a unified humanity:
that’s a full-fridge full-belly privilege.
For this vast world to be one
both pandemics must be undone.
Click on the file below to listen to Chris read her poem:
Chris Biles currently lives and works in Washington D.C. She enjoys playing with the light and the dark, and losing herself in music, anything outside, and of course some words here and there. Chris has been published in Blueline Magazine, Signatures Lit and Arts Magazine, Words and Whispers, The Clementine Zine, Fleas on the Dog, FEED Lit Mag, and on SLiPNet. Find her at www.chrisbiles03.com / Instagram: @marks.in.the.sand
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.
AN ENDLESS RIPPLE
An endless ripple is created by a simple act of caring,
It leaves a lasting impression, when we all think about sharing,
A person who receives help will always care about others faring,
He will know that the difference in not having is glaring.
You can see how far the little candle throws its beam,
So will shine your good deed by those who have seen,
If you help someone you know how much that will mean,
It influences others to do good as it has never been.
So why can’t you do good by making this chain going?
By helping others the way to help you will be showing,
By a simple act the seeds of philanthropy you’ll be sowing,
An endless ripple comes out of the good you are doing.
The best way to help is to help others in need,
Then you will become an example for others to follow indeed,
By a simple good act those following you, you will lead,
Everyone, helping each other survive, will be doing a good deed.
Now is the time to create a ripple, begin to donate food,
Have compassion for the hungry man, real sufferings he has withstood,
It is so much within your power, something you certainly could,
When you start the ripple, the message will quickly everywhere spread.
Click on the video to hear Padma recite the 2 poems - My Dream and An Endless Ripple
Padma is a post graduate in Social Sciences. She believes that poetry is a powerful tool to express ideas. What the world needs now is compassion and sharing and a small act can create an endless ripple. She dreams of a world free of hunger and strife. If we wipe away the tears from a hungry child's face, we could realize the ultimate purpose of life.
I ask my students:
Are there too many people?
They’ve been raised on the problems
that come with overpopulation--
famine, poverty, and
To them, demography is destiny.
We go over the numbers:
7.8 billion and growing,
fertility rates—going down overall,
below replacement in some countries,
but still high in others,
especially those that are the poorest.
I rise early to pick beans and lettuce.
Kale and okra coming along,
cucumbers, grapes, and apples too,
all in my small patch behind the house.
I think of my students
and the semester that begins
in a month; of the numbers
and the data we will confront,
and the questions we need to ask:
Are resources distributed fairly?
What if each person had enough land
to grow the food they need?
Are we counting the right beans?
Kneel beside me in the garden
and feel the soft, moist dirt
warmed again after winter’s freeze,
turned and readied for planting.
Scoop it, feel it in your hands,
crush the clods in your palms,
squeeze the dirt through your fingers
until your hands are rich
with a black dermis of soil.
The earth is part of us,
in our psyche and our souls.
It is our past, our present, our future.
So, my sons, descendants of farmers
who wrote lives in the earth,
take this soil, hold it in your hands,
feel the moist warmth radiate,
and no matter what you do,
or where you go in life,
turn a spadeful of dirt each spring,
take the soft, warm earth into your hands
and feed your soul
Here is the link to Michael's video reading Spring Soil on his YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRv_AIRuJq0
And you can click on the link below to listen to Michael read his poem Counting Beans:
Michael Ratcliffe is a geographer and poet who lives in North Laurel, Maryland, where he also tends a small backyard garden in which he grows beans, lettuce, okra, kale, grapes, and apples. His poem, “We Grow the Revolution,” received an honorable mention in the 2019 Poetry X Hunger competition. His poem, “After Sterling,” received an honorable mention in the Maryland Writers' Association 2020 Poetry Competition and was published in Maryland in Poetry.
These poems were submitted for the 2020 WFD Poetry Competition