Bengal Famine, 1943
Spewing fine Cuban nicotine, some two-thirds stupefied with Pol Roger,
He fulminated over Gandhi (“that nauseating, malignant and seditious,
Half-naked, fanatical fakir”), as he always did those nights. “The Indians
Are beastly people”, growled the Greatest Briton in that fake put-on voice,
With bellicose pomposity, which dreadfully impressed his sycophants, “Practising
Their foul religion. Sending them food would just encourage them to breed.”
He pouted at the paper, grunted and upon it scrawled, with brandy-trembling hand,
‘Inaction this day’. Marlborough’s descendent snorted and then returned
To his cigar. Three million starved to death. No epitaphs upon Bengali graves.
He and his acolytes composed the histories. His legacy remains secure
Mike Douse has a lifetime's immersion in education: his first assignment in Bangladesh was in 1966 and his latest there - looking at technical education for the International Labour Organisation - is ongoing. A collection of his articles, essays and conference contributions, entitled An Enjoyment of Education, was published in 2014 and he has published two anthologies of poems: Old Ground and Gone to Ground. Mike lives in mid-Wales with his dear wife Patricia.
Like the sound before a thunderstorm
An inner ache, like that of a woman in travail follows after
I toss and turn and hope
Tonight will be better
My mind wandering every second of every minute of every day
When it shall be full to the brim and running over
Then will I appreciate scarcity in times of abundance
Or treasure abundance in a spell of scarcity
Still it remains a dream
Worth waiting for
As I beg for the crumbs off the masters table
Daily we scramble with the township canine,
The stronger always win in battle
I would be wise
And decide to forget how life on the other side was like.
You define me not
Yes we lay side by side, shadow to shadow
Still you define me not
There is still an ounce of sanity in me
Yet a little milk, a little meat
A little scent of fresh pie
Baked to perfection
Would go a long way
Taste buds running wild as the rich flavours form a union
But fate has favoured the poor with lack
As the rich are endowed with more riches
The true taste of my own saliva has become so sweet
While few months' debris from chewed green leaves, are safely tucked away between my teeth.
I wish to see your face
And stare deep within those lifeless eyes
What guts you have
Your desires to wipe all humanity;
as you stand akimbo with your twin kindred corruption and disease
Adamant to infest all in its path
Til none whimpers, sighs or groans
Still we found you here
And remain here you shall
Oh when shall your scorpion's sting lose its edge
Hunger my foe
Never my mate
Never again welcome but fade away into thin air
Into the dust 6 feet under
beneath the shadows where none can see your hand.
Go and return not
We don't want you here
Known as Patience Essence to her poetry fans, Lingiwe Patience Gumbo lives in Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe and writes motivational literature and is also a recording artist and songwriter who is inspired by her faith, love and life situations. A voice of the voiceless, Patience is in the process of publishing her first poems anthology titled Words of Life.
Fortify Your Nutrition
The elite dines recommending balanced diet.
“Balanced Diet,” nutritionist lectures every client.
Sure I will prefer sweet over sour,
Fresh fruits and corn flour.
I will be only a fool and unkind to ignore
Stunted children in my country under 5 years, 57% is the roar.
Help all grow healthy, advocate a diet well understood.
Don’t waste a single bread, galloping wine, fixing your mood.
Breakfast, lunch or dinner
The children here have not much to eat, and
Beyond your imagination, much much thinner.
I will sacrifice mouthwatering pastries
Deserts and expensive meals
And pay last of pennies
Fortifying nutrition of stunted here.
Rashid Hussain is a Manager of Operations with JSI/Pakistan working on the Integrated Health Systems Strengthening & Service Delivery (IHSS-SD) Activity. He holds a double Masters in HRM and International Relations and has worked for more than 18 years in Administration/HR/Security. Writing is one of his leisure time hobbies.
I Am Food
I am as powerful as life, but also as deadly as death.
My presence springs joy and wide beautiful smiles.
Faces light up and bellies jubilate.
My absence brings discomfort, growling bellies,
sad faces and diseased bodies.
Leaders and ordinary people from all walks of life
gather at round tables to discuss my present and future.
Big and small machines are assembled
to crush me, grind me, cut and even cook me.
I am the mutton of Kazakhstan
The nsima of Zambia
The chapati of Pakistan
The rice of Vietnam
The wot of Ethiopia
The ugali of Tanzania
The baguette of France
I may be important but am scarce in some parts of the world.
The poor understand my scarcity more. Like:
That frail, sick child in Central African Republic
who desires, longs and craves for me yet cannot have me.
That old poor woman in Chad who cannot afford me
because am priced highly.
That hardworking farmer in Malawi who can only have me
in one form because production and processing fees are unaffordable.
That other farmer in Madagascar who could not harvest me
because there was drought and locust attacks.
That street kid in Zambia who only has me once
and survives the rest of the days on Jenkem.
They say the world has enough of me to feed everyone.
Yet I still wonder why some people go hungry for days.
Why so many children die of malnutrition in Timor Leste.
Why some women are forced to sell their bodies
just to feed their children and families in Kenya.
Why people still have unbalanced meals and risk disease.
My only wish is to see food security boosted,
Agriculture production enhanced.
I wish to see a world where the right to have access
to safe and nutritious food is not just on paper but in the actual homes.
Where political will and commitment to achieve food security
is not just a mere political slogan but a committed act.
My wish is to see everyone young and old, rich and poor, educated and uneducated
work together to achieve world food security for all.
I AM FOOD AND I AM IMPORTANT!
Betty K. Makalu is a Voluntary Male Medical Circumcision (VMMC) Counselor at JSI - Discover Health Zambia. Her passion is serving communities through the provision of information related to health and development. She holds a BA in Development Studies.
A Food Day Haiku
Theirs and ours a right
food deserts be gone forever
everyone's bowl full
Denish Moorthy is a Senior Technical Advisor with USAID Advancing Nutrition. He is not a poet. He likes his words to reflect the world around us, which is a rental from the future inhabitants. He also likes puns and wordplay, and seeing others laugh from a well-timed joke (and laughing with them).
Rice and Mirrors
If you substitute rice for potatoes
you would have my version of
growing up in America. When I
was thirteen and had high blood
pressure the doctor said “no gravy
on your potatoes,” but we didn’t eat
potatoes that often and to make
a difference in my diet it would
have had to be less adobo juice
on my rice or less salty soy sauce.
How, exactly, do you tell a doctor
when you’re thirteen that the example
he gave is a bad one, that it may apply
to him but not to me? Then there were
the things we used to do like cover
all the mirrors in the house with blankets
when there was a thunderstorm, practices
that carried over from the old world
that took decades to fade from our lives.
I don’t remember the first time we left
the mirrors uncovered during a storm
but I imagine my mother and father
felt tense, wondering if our house
in America would get struck by lightning,
that maybe the old superstitions
were still right after all these years,
and after all the things they left behind.
I wonder about the first time
my mother and father had a dinner
here without rice.
Did they still feel hungry afterwards,
did they feel slightly lost, standing
as tall as they could on uncertain feet,
in this strange, exotic land?
Jose Padua is the author of A Short History of Monsters, which was chosen by former poet laureate Billy Collins as the winner of the 2019 Miller Williams Poetry Prize. His poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in many magazines and journals, such as Bomb, Salon, The Weeklings, Exquisite Corpse, and Another Chicago Magazine. He is a Communications Specialist with John Snow, Inc.
The unwelcome addressee - A case against hunger
An Epidemic gone rogue, to enormous proportions
A scourge unfolding without therapy
Unattended for several years, to our future medics
The cure is a must find now than late
Or our funeral of endless burials grows stubbornly
Like episodes of a horrendous movie series
Watched by elders yesterday, youths today, albeit…
None posing it. Twice, fingers jittery at pressing the stop button.
Cdes, hands on decks. Set sail to hunger`s confrontation
Head on! A combatant Africa, mood is to rise
And cease to be attacked offensively like an unarmed battalion
Unable to repeal a death penalty leading us to slaughter,
Yet gazetted by a mass murderer
We did not deserve to die in mass graves
Or our skeletons won`t heal.
Placement of us;
The prosecuting populace, in docks – IN ITS STEAD.
Like an underdog outsmarting an overrated opponent
In a swift reversal of roles, but cheated.
Ladies; eh gentlemen too. Needed – `s food on the table!
Our draught power is well alive, but
Reckon if you may, our cart is before the horses.
Imports galore of Cere vita, from coffers of cereals` underproduction
Indeed yes, our spendthrift is swallowing necessities gentlemen;
Primaries second ranked,
Scoreboards read of record buys of mealie meal from mealie-cob less, a farmer
Then a throat clearing reminder
Of jet legged begging visits.
Ours are manymore! Armed with shiny` colourful` collecting bowels for luggage
Leaves wondrous givers in awe
…..did we not say “famished” at the door`s knock?
A hand extended anyway, in expression of neighbouliness
Pitifully knowing we shall be back
Out of the terminator`s sake, not as terminators of a fate
A cause unresolved that being hunger, not famine`s
Any greedy mother feeds self-first
What follows – ‘s elaborate displays of her malnourished child
For a few more drops of well-wishers` bags food full
Not a tag for Mother Africa
She is too beautiful
Hunger cannot rob her irresistible stature
She`s self-provision able-bodied
A moment`s chew is worth the juncture.
Natively ‘that which gets into the ear;
Sits in, attentively for re-addressing’ – chawaridza bonde
Perhaps a re-thinking of Zunde raMambo
Seeing not th command of it, rather the commendation: families fed
Possibly, cessations from subsistence will SOS
Out of surpluses to threshing floors my Africa
A food surplus world shall prioritize the struggler. The vision
Undoubtedly, present day`s food shortage has fed;
Graduates, in dark suits and navy neck ties
The enlightened, of an impoverished mother land. The case
Honouring of agronomists with first aid – oh food aid!
At the expense of the under privileged,
A hungred provider of hard labour. The lesson
Until we out do hunger`s contestation
Non-bickering with the other
Save for, all hand on decks
We set sail and act solving, an endangered tomorrow
Hunger`s address long unknown
Is not anymore unsaid at last!
Least it had evaded our past.
Brian Tawanda Manyati is a Chartered Secretary & Administrator and Accountant cum Poet on a part time basis. He belongs to the VaChikepe_the Poet & Publisher stable also known as HundredSailors.Poetry. Brian is a team player who works with the theme “together we achieve more”
Seven Years of Famine
Seven means perfection!
But is there perfection in trouble?
Like... Seven years of famine
Are equal to perfect years?
The sky is becoming more blue than ever
With excruciating pain like blue balls
Bouncing in the sack for a slam dunk...
The cloud has become so dry
And thirsty! coughing dust,
Like kids playing soccer in a dusty ground
Leaving dead birds, that became
Victims of the atrocities of asthma...
The snakes became as vicious as ever,
As they seek in vanity
The Adams and Eves to take
Them back to the garden of Eden
With greener pastures.
The lions confused themselves to
The lion of Judah and fasted...
Forty days, forty nights and died of hunger
In the seven years of famine.
This is the first year and hunger became
A hazard to the human life more than AIDS.
Like... If it was a disease, we would find a cure
In the form of pills, but hunger just needs a plate.
The orphans and the widows struggle,
Their bellies rumble, while the lips mumble,
The silent conversations of stigmatizing hunger
But only Joseph has a fat belly because he,
Managed to fill his silos in the years of abundance.
“Mama, I’m hungry, I need something to eat!”
The babies moan in the morning,
The babies moan in the afternoon,
They do the same in the evening, but in vain
Because mama got nothing but tears...
Tears to show sympathy to the baby _
But tears don’t fill the babies’ empty bellies.
“We’ve come up with a program, to feed
Every hungry kid and parent!”
And the people applaud the words of vanity
Coming from the hypocritical lip of politics,
But still the kids look like they are carrying
Guitars, with ribs showing off their frames.
“More than 20000 people die daily because
That’s the words from the stereo but...
What needs to be done?
The fathers began feeding on their seed
And still found no fault in it
Because the land is overpopulated.
And they believe their faith
Can attract the Lord and
Raise the dead seed...
The land feeds on our plants like vampires
Everyday they're wilting like the twilight’s prey,
And we're harvesting feed,
For donkeys... But the donkeys
Were digested last night.
The male kids are working hard
And receive ugly rewards like Leah
Instead of their Rachel
And have to work seven more years.
The sun blazes like the hell fire
And the daughters now believe
Nakedness is the only way to survive
In the seven years of famine...
“We’re fighting diseases, war, crime, racism,
Gender imbalance...”, the president says.
“Sorry Mr. president, you forgot to mention
The battle we’re fighting with poverty and hunger”
A million dollar contribution from a hungry lip...
“Hunger is a result of all those enemies, and
If we fight them, the world would be less hungry”
The president says on the pulpit...
And you’ll begin to wonder whether we heard
The speech with stuffed ears or the president
Has no heart for the hungry?
How many people love fasting? Only Christians
But they love fasting when it is of their own will
Not fasting when it is mandatory_
When it is forced on human beings
Like some kind of appetite abuse.
I saw a moving hearse yesterday
I heard a touching verse yesterday
I heard a crying family yesterday
I read a hunger eulogy yesterday,
Of a boy who died hungry... And
The eulogy read, “rest in hunger”
We don’t understand anything anymore
Because in January it was a January disease
But now it’s December and instead of
Making merry as we say merry Christmas
We’re dancing to the sound of throbbing bellies
As we hope for a kid to cry in a manger
And turn a grain of maize into a ton.
A hungry man, is an angry man
The world’s in trouble because of anger.
Hate has increased and love is getting extinct
All because somebody preached a powerful sermon,
“It’s the survival of the fittest!”
The less formidable became nobodys and...
Were kicked off from the domino table
To the ground to feed on crumbs like a dog or...
Like the Lazarus guy...
Sometimes they feed on crumbs,
Sometimes they feed on hunger
And the intestinal organs have become so twisted
Trying to improvise on the food situation.
The grinding mills in the belly have stopped working
As they isn’t anything to digest because the crumbs
Are being digested by the teeth,
Passing through the esophagus as liquid.
Initial abrasion causing sores inside like ulcers
Because the friction has to take place...
Leaving a situation of hunger and sickness
In the land and... People die regularly
And... The living ran out of fat and...
The way they walk you’d believe they...
Are, “the walking dead” cast and...
The young girls' and boys' desperation
Has brought about, “humanitarian AIDS”.
“We’re predicting torrential rains in this season,
And we believe the upcoming year is going to
Be a year of abundance”
The met department feeding the public with fables
But it’s like telling atheists to have faith in a god
Because the rain alone can’t yield harvests
When there aren’t seeds and farming equipment.
“Mr. President Sir, what is the way forward...
We need to know if hunger is our friend?”
The public needs answers... Who has the answers?
“The issue is we’re not having any humanitarian aid
From united Nations and all the organizations”
The president of the people, or of the office?
No “humanitarian aid”, he insists but...
Boxes printed USAID fly into the country daily
But... They aren’t evenly distributed
Because of the sermon that got preached,
“It’s the survival of the fittest!”
The world begins to wonder,
What the causes of hunger are:
Principles became nonsense
Rules became violations
Fate was twisted in the,
Land by the empty bellies.
The public became followers
Of Michael Jackson's captivating songs
“Heal the world”, “Will you be there”, “The earth song”,
And became world anthems but...
The questions on the tracks aren’t answerable.
Everybody wants to gather at his grave
Maybe he has the answers... Or not
And music is the food everybody can afford
The food to the ears, there isn’t any food
To the stomach. Only if...
We had cow stomachs, we would store
Some food in them and chew again
In times like these of famine.
Infant mortality rates are at their peak
Can a hungry mother feed its baby?
Only two options we’re facing at times,
A dead infant or a dead infant and its mother
If I’ve to choose between the two options,
I would choose option three with...
A breathing infant and its mother.
Hunger has left people with a few choices
Nobody chose responsibility and...
We’re living in a land with fatherless kids
Because the father thought they were
The fittest enough to survive and left
But hunger made them a coward.
“Mom, my stomach is rumbling”
With tears streaming down the cheeks,
A baby who’s being deprived of her right
To eat... A baby being enslaved by pain,
A baby being tormented by starvation,
A baby who knows how to adapt
To harsh conditions like they are cactus kids
Surviving on the sun and a few grains of food.
The mother is also a victim of hunger
Like... The law may not even legalize cannibalism
Before the mothers begin feeding on them
Like... Hannibal is now getting more fans by the day
Like... The world took a wrong turn and got fed
Like... Mother nature is becoming less friendly.
We were hungry from year 1 till now
And we’ve tried being the fittest
But rebelling on the state is like a solution
And let them deal with purge anarchy
As we’ve always dealt with hunger anarchy.
The love of food became the root of all evil
To put food in your mouth, just be cynical
The humanity in us just left in a radical
Manner because we are hungry and wrathful.
Only if our stomachs could be full
We would’ve been less fools
Selling our pride just to grind on grains
And hunger managed to manipulate our brains.
Marked territories in different regions
People act possessed... It’s a land of legions
Satisfying ourselves with food thrown to the ground,
Nature must have confused us to pigeons.
And that’s how the civil strife is funded
Hunger in the midst of it all like it’s the blindfold
That left us all blinded.
CNN, BBC, Aljazeera, Sky news and all TV stations
Are all eyes of the world witnessing the tragedies
Waiting for action to be the loudest voice
In the zero hunger world movement.
It’s the fifth year and statistics show that
More than 20000 people die daily from hunger
And the mathematical calculations show
Figures which can give us a heart attack.
The difference between street beggars
And those who don’t live in the streets,
Is the term street... Because... We’re all
Beggars who are hungry like hunger
Is a curse... Like... We’re all almond
Trees that were cursed by Jesus
And our land can’t produce anything.
This hunger made us feel like dead sea
Residents or... The land was hit by a plague
Like Egypt when Moses was...
Trying to free the Israelites from Pharaoh
To Canaan, purported as the land...
The land of milk and honey and...
Our land doesn’t have cows and bees
To produce the milk and the honey.
The cows died of hunger
The bees are becoming fewer by the day,
Because of deforestation as people seek
Firewood to sell and get some cents
To buy mealie meal and feed their
Families in the uncomfortable years.
The uprisings are inevitable
And nations have been divided
Requiring United Nations to work more
And unite the nations that are being
Pushed to the edge by hunger.
Hunger is a virus!
A virus that spread to everyone
A virus that has destroyed innocent consciences
Leaving us in a state of desperation
And that bred hatred in us
And wars for food.
Thieves came more alive
And they not only visit in the night
But whenever there is an opportunity
To silence their grumbling bellies.
The voice of hunger became
More loud than even the voice of love...
Love thy neighbor, as you love yourself...
“Aah... I’m sorry Mr. Preacher!
I can’t love him when I’m hungry
It’s like the plate is our trophy,
And my neighbor is competition
And the best way to win the trophy...
Is by eliminating competition!”
Those are the atrocities of a hungry man
Or of hunger... Or of hunger games and...
We don’t have the keys to unlock the
Previous level of hunger or maybe...
We can try using the cheat codes...
And... If it continues like this...
Six years of hunger
And it’s no longer hunger for the belly
But hunger for the body and mind
To satisfy our own personal desires.
Because we’ve been crippled internally
By something which came to us
Through ignorance or being slothful
Or through issues of climate change.
Hunger is a bad thing to our lives
But it’s the worst thing when
It is no longer about empty bellies
But becomes about empty hearts.
Killing each other everyday like wild animals
But killing each other won’t get rid of it
But it’ll definitely get rid of our existence
In a quest to satisfy our satiation.
Mothers now no longer have the resources
To feed their babies because they’re...
They’ve nothing... Even their breasts don’t
Obey the child’s lips when it begins sucking
And the songs of pain are put on repeat
By the children, but mothers can’t
Reduce the volume of the stereos.
“No pain, no gain”
Does that mean “more pain, more gain?”
Or pain is subjective... Or
Maybe the hunger feeling is just a tickle
And pain is just being underrated by
Being associated with hunger?
“My people perish because they lack knowledge”
People need to be taught how to deal with hunger
And in the seventh year, we begin witnessing
Different platforms, different programs
Dealing with issues of hunger.
Different organizations joined hands
To tackle with their mutual enemy
And the future carries a torch
Which shines for all to see
The defeat of hunger
Once and for all.
We’re all waiting for the Armageddon...
The Armageddon of hunger!
The day abundance will dwell
In our midst and manifest inside
Us through fully stuffed stomachs.
They spoke of fighting the good fight of faith
We preach the good fight of abolishing hunger
A zero tolerant world against hunger
Means everyone gets a food on their table.
The seventh year can change everything
Hunger need to be fought head on
Like we don’t need to be afraid of hunger
The fear of hunger is the beginning of starvation.
The Genesis of death like the revelation
And a step in the abundance direction
Can wipe away hunger!
The motto is zero tolerance to hunger...
We aiming for a zero hunger world.
Used to be
The growl of my anger
Was always louder than
the growl of my stomach
But not today
He looks at me in fear and wonder
This stranger at the terminus, must be thinking,
why is she so angry
is she that hungry?
My stomach was shaming me.
I smile in apology
I'm just tired, I suppose
But I'm truly just hungry, I know
Used to be
A working woman could eat
Used to be
A working woman could sustain herself
Used to be
A working woman never got into stupid fights with strangers
Just for the reason they were eating and she hadn't in almost a whole day
Used to be
Usisi osebenzayo (a working woman)
Would better spend her daydreams on futures of success instead of a good meal
Okay 'a good meal' was too much dreaming
"Maybe just some bread"
All that was gone now
What used to be had changed.
What is, is her hunger equaling to her anger.
It’s the scraping at her stomach
Leaving a hot and acid pain in her tummy
Making her wish she didn't have a bloody stomach
The uncontainable panicked confusion of her mind
As her brain tries to reason out why the body is going for so long, unfed
The rising rage of emotion as she tries to convince herself to be at peace with the lack in her stomach
The hot anger that arises when she thinks how
It used to be at such moments she would go buy a scone
Oh wait, all that used to be, is gone.
We are talking about now.
The day she spent trying to not look at others eat
The night she'll spend
Try to find sleep
After a supper that's
Too ugly, too small, too unsatisfying
To wash from memory the past day's hunger
Tomorrow she wouldn't go to work
How could she manage to
I mean working all day without sustenance
But not going would mean being fired
Sitting at home to starve
To watch children turn from thin and scrawny to just ribs and bone
One works, one can't eat,
Nor can her family, her kids,
Used to be
She could feed them just cause she worked
All that's gone now
Zolisa Gumede is a Zimbabwean poet and story writer from the city of Bulawayo. She is driven by a passion for giving life to stories that speak for the lives of everyday heroes, the marginalized and all human beings, for we all need a witness to our lives. She loves a good laugh and a good story.
That something is wrong
With our way of thinking
Either we have to solve
It or we will perish
Away with it!
Knows no boundary
When it comes to swallowing
But sometimes there isn’t anything
To swallow at all swallowing
Thinness and diseases
The food we
Eating today is
As dangerous as
Poison slowly destroying
Us from our appetite and their
Deliciousness especially from our
Ignorance! Food was never
Complicated to eat like
These days where
You first read the
Of your food
If you will
Survive or not!
Which leaves us this question
If food has become this difficult
To eat what will we eat what are we
Going to be eating, today, tomorrow
And the day after tomorrow? Are
We eating anything? What are
We eating? And what shall
We eat in the future
We are traditionally known for eating
Food! But if we are not careful enough
This same food is going to eat us up
All of us in return!
What I also don’t understand is why
Are we still starving to death yet this
World has developed so much! From
Traveling with airplanes to now
Planning to live in Mars and
At the moon! From having
Traffic conjunctions to
In the cables
To now having
The same technology
Connected to our bodies
Like we are born with it yes it!
We need to do something about our
Food! We need to do something
About what we eat and we
Need to do something
Whilst we can
That is too
Big for us to
Handle or solve!
Do we really know what hunger is guys
Do we really know what it is
Let us carefully listen to it
To what it has to say
Even if it runs away
From us let us
Let us locate
It and have
With him lest we
Can all strike a mutual
Deal that benefits us all!
If all this does not work then we will
Launch a war against hunger
Because he has been
Destroying us for a
Long time without
The funny thing about all this is ever
Since the times we started eating
We never stopped eating!
Continuously or with
Some space in
Taku famously known as VaChikepe is one of the best writing poets from Zimbabwe. A two-time featured poet at the Bridgewater International Poetry Festival, he believes that poetry is a calling and he uses different states of mind, music and spirituality to define and express poetry.
You can find poets' names under Categories