Poem by Brenda Gunn
She showed up late
for picture day
ratty toque pulled low
Do you want to take it off? I asked.
For the photo?
she pulled it lower with both fists
My sister tortures me
between savage gulps
of milkless instant oatmeal
from a tiny pack stashed in a locked drawer
in the school office
That’s four times this week the secretary sniffed
as if there’s a moratorium
on food instability
I don’t ask if this one knows where auntie is or if
uncle still finds her and her little sister fake-sleeping
under T-shirt blankets on the couch
She tried to hide
the circle seared into her palm
the scratches on her knees
from the cat,
or so she said
Is there any more?
A note from the poet -- As an elementary school teacher of 33 years, I was often confronted with kids/families living with food insecurity. Ask any elementary teacher, and they will show you a snack drawer/closet/cupboard stocked with granola bars, oatmeal, beef jerky, crackers, etc. usually purchased with their own money, for hungry students. This poem is a reflection of that all-too-common situation.
Click on the file below to watch the video of Brenda reading her poem:
Since retiring in 2017, Brenda's immersion in family research inspired a collection of poetry based on her paternal ancestry. A proud member of the Edmonton Stroll of Poets and the Parkland Poet's Society, her work has been published in Canadian journals and anthologies. Brenda is completing a certificate in creative writing and is at work on a second collection of poems.
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