When Schools are Soup Kitchens
She doesn’t raise her hand
when the teacher asks
who wants to order
the free snack/supper
even though she knows
she will go hungry.
No one else raises their hand.
He shrugs and tells his friends
he isn’t hungry, covers
his growling stomach with laughter
because he’d rather starve
than his classmates discover
his lunch account is empty
again. Dining with dignity
impossible when nothing
at school is anonymous.
Her teacher slips
bags of chips into her desk
while they are in P.E.
so her classmates won’t see.
The counselor fills
his backpack with boxes
of mac and cheese
and cans of beans
a bag of rice
so he won’t go hungry
over the long weekend.
on the gaping wound
of their hunger.
Gabby Gilliam lives in the DC metro area, more specifically Montgomery County, Maryland. Her poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming from, The Chesapeake Reader, The Fredericksburg Literary Arts Review, and Tofu Ink Arts Press. Her short fiction will appear in a forthcoming anthology from Black Hare Press.
Stomachs dressed in cardboard
signs gurgle will clean anything
for a living wage. Roots dry rot
waiting for hire. A tesla-patient
mob rushes to click the X
on my pop-up Ad box, making
hectares of my willingness
blink and sputter.
Self responsibility Sir Ma’am
they say as if they know
the circumstances. Yeah, like
you’ve never needed anything
you’ve never needed anything.
I walk the rim of asphalt
toward the next window.
who when satisfied
gives me enough mojo
to fake a home address.
Not talking about Hunger
fueling the fortunate in this realm
so that they can go to bed
and fly the imagination.
Food will smack them awake
Talking about Hunger
gasping a prayer for a pound
of protein packaged veggie
lentil burger mac & cheese
I don’t care Big Mac Big Mac
My body is now a religion
without a living head. Vapor.
Not talking about Hunger
Mahatma Gandhi shapes
into a bullet for the caste system.
Protest fasting’s been chopped down now
even appropriated by some now.
Hunger snaps a rubber band
against my pale lips yet it lays
a pregnant self bare for the other muse
full of inspiration, verse, fantasy, romance
Greek cornucopias, architecture, inventions
prisons and supermarkets full of xenophobia.
It slings chummy arms through the elbows
of plunderers dot death
and political ’trepreneurs.
This lover air kisses
my dream. It savages
my world into a food
desert, driving back
the lion who once kept
watch, protecting me
and the platform
shoes of the elite.
Now the king
and I step
one then two
The stinging will stop
if you share
your bread for a moment.
Click on the file below to listen to Faith read her poem:
Faith P. Nelson holds a B.A. in English from the University of Maryland and freelances as a tourism copy-writer and indie publishing consultant. She programmed a literary festival and gained years of experience working behind the scenes at BET, Viacom. Bear, her tabby cat, keeps her humble by running away when she picks up the guitar. Water Therapy is her first collection of poetry: https://www.watercoursepublishing.com
[Copywriting, Book Development and Indie Publishing Production Assistance]
Hunger wears a face full of hope
like the girl on the magazine cover
cradling a loaf of white bread
as if it’s a miracle. Tonight she will
sleep with food in her tummy.
Hunger’s face is innocent
like the little boy buying a corn-dog
at the corner store or his neighbor
who’s grateful for two plump strawberries
tucked in the family’s food box.
Hunger tells the same story
sweeping across time and place
from Oklahoma’s Dust Bowl
to Mississippi’s Delta towns—
Loss and desperation landing sucker-punches
on families across America.
Hunger’s face is weary
like the fictional Rose O’Sharon
heavy with grief after birthing
her stillborn child. Her pain ripples
through the air, palpable and raw
like the fresh scar on her heart.
She seeks refuge from the rain
in an old barn, a boy offers
her a musty blanket. She spies
an old man huddled in the corner
gripped by hunger like a fist in his belly.
Rose offers him the only gift she has
lying down next to him, baring her breast,
and sharing her milk.
Click on the file below to listen to Ann read her poem:
Ann Bracken has authored two poetry collections, No Barking in the Hallways: Poems from the Classroom and The Altar of Innocence, serves as a contributing editor for Little Patuxent Review, and co-facilitates the Wilde Readings Poetry Series. Ann advocates for arts-based interventions for mental health, education, and prison reform.
Truth will be the seed
the brethren of the earth
droplets of a liquid sun
filling up all wells
the way that dreams
fill up a melody of illusion
The earth has remained
dry and crumbling
who would have imagined
that iron showers
could never bloom
a green of feasts
but rather bleed
an old despair?
let barrels of food
go to waste
like depth charges
in poor people’s faces.
Hunger is no longer tragic
just unbearably absurd
Come, climb the stairs
look up to the spheres
and find a comet
that even the blind can see
then stab the earth
slit its veins with love
and light and joy
and let the truth
We will have bread
the field songs
a venerable earthquake
and we will remember
what sharing meant
because we’ll learn
to share again.
Andrés Abella (born in Valparaíso, Chile, 1970) is a journalist, activist and poet. He lives in Takoma Park, MD, with his family. He studied English language and literature at the Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaíso, Chile, and Journalism at San Francisco State University, California. He worked as a journalist and news editor for more than 15 years in print and online media.
first girl in the family to go to college
was hungry all year
often, for a smoke to put a coat
of nicotine over all-nighter pangs
of exam panic
dry-mouthed too many mornings
anonymous in lecture halls
following beer-pong night school
covetous of customers’ orders
waiting tables at the diner
consumed by plate envy
for syrup-soaked pancakes since
the currency of her free meal
bartered for calculus tutorials
she might have gotten for her dimples
and a feigned interest in sci-fi
instead, she indulged
the same sweet tooth
her momma showed
for boys with candied flesh
no woman could ever bite deep
enough to sugarcoat their rinds
a binge that left her ravenous
to know if that extra weight
was freshman 10
or pregnancy pounds
then, by finals week, bloated with relief
when what she had to swallow next
left a mostly hidden scar
and a fat-lipped heart
What mom hopes I don’t remember about first-grade hunger:
how it gulped down even the lump of fear
caused by ketchup sandwich of silence and sirens
that last syringe stuck like a straw
in her bruised banana flesh.
I pretend now that I never slept dreamless
on a full belly, plump pillow in a foster family’s home
the nights she spent in rehab.
My eighth-grade pangs starved family pride:
I was the scavenger angel in evangelical service
of our lunch lady of the uneaten corn dog
nugget, green bean, cooked carrot and fruit cocktail
abandoned on trays of friends.
At home my brother and I gorged impotently
on ramen noodles, eager for mom’s McNugget pay-day
Tenth-grade first job wages:
I stuffed my locker and bedside table
with red finger-tipped fruits
crunch and burn of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos
my pocket change tossed in the collection plate
for college and a car. Later was never. Now
was treating the three of us to fourth meal at Taco Bell
until we were sick of it, and I grew too big for hand-me-downs
used my employee discount on a larger size.
Laura Stewart Webb is a keen and grateful member of the Southern Maryland community of poets who gather together to participate in workshops, open mics, and the joy and mystery of being human. Laura writes on many topics but often returns to themes inspired by her work as a community educator in behavioral health. Laura lives with an Irish Wolfhound named Fintan who has not given up trying to teach her everything he knows.
El Pan de Cada Dia (Our Daily Bread, HERE is the version in English)
Se dice que la poesía es como el pan,
que alimenta el alma.
Pero a veces, como las buenas intenciones
y las oraciones, ¡no es suficiente!
Se ha comprobado que los niños
no aprenden cuando tienen hambre.
Fíjese en las bajas calificaciones de los estudiantes en nuestras escuelas.
El desayuno debe ser la primera lección
de cada día. Seguido por el almuerzo,
y una merienda por la tarde antes
de la salida.
Las sondas gastro-nasales que alimentan
a los moribundos les obligan a seguir viviendo aun contra su voluntad
pero esto no dura para siempre.
Y aunque no hay tubos de alimentación
para los que viven, una sola comida
puede ser la diferencia entre la vida
y la muerte para muchos.
Sin embargo, mientras tantos mueren
de hambre, se desechan a diario
miles de libras de comestibles
en países tan prósperos como este.
¡Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!
Todos somos culpables por despreciar
las sobras y el pan viejo que, como la poesía, pueden alimentar a un pueblo.
Maritza Rivera (Montgomery County, MD) is a Puerto Rican poet and Army veteran who has been writing poetry for over 40 years. She is the creator of Blackjack poetry and hosts the Mariposa Poetry retreat. Maritza aka Mariposa is the author of About You, A Mother’s War, 21: Blackjack Poems, and the Blackjack Poetry Playing Cards.
This Ridiculous Struggle
The yearning to pin the moth just so,
is the hungry ghost.
The dark of that unquenchable maw.
Monkey mind tells us we're stuck here.
Even as I bathe in the orange-y, pinkest sunset on my porch,
those children sit huddled
Cold or hot, dirty, bored, dirty and of course hungry.
Both occur at the same time.
The sky is a marvelous wash of lingerie hues and mesa burning.
Each wrenched away baby
frenzied by so much absence.
Julie lives in Freeland, MD and says, “I start, make & point out things. I wonder how we got here. I live on a "farm" and herd kids & pets & groan at hubby's puns, often.”
From the Balcony by Forestine Bynum, Laurel
Overlooking my balcony, I often saw
A gathering of women and children
Mothers with babies tucked tightly in their arms
They were quiet, rather orderly
Not causing a disturbance, walkers passed by politely
Busying themselves as not to see, scurry to
Catch the bus or get to their cars
I saw women taking turns scavenging
Through a dumpster nearby
I hadn’t notice before, for food
The only sound heard was a tiny cry asking
Mommy, when will we get food
And a voice saying, Feed My People, Feed My People
And a mother’s soft voice replying
Tomorrow, tomorrow my child, I hope
To mor row, to mor row
By Forestine C. Bynum
Remember the story, “Stone Soup”?
Neighbors shared food that they had.
Carrots, cabbage, beans, peppers,
Enough soup for all prepared.
Plant thoughts for food abundance.
Imagine zero world hunger.
Wholesome meals grace all tables
One mind, same goal, we’re stronger.
Spirit-cousins band as one;
Repast so others eat and live.
Fruits, veggies cross distant seas.
Our grateful hands freely give.
Zero world hunger’s possible.
We are the “Stone Soup” tale.
Bring bread to the world’s table.
Global unity never fails.
(c) By Aressa Williams
Retired English Professor and teacher consultant, Aressa wrote her first poetry book to earn a Girl Scout Badge for Creative Writing. Aressa, a member of Pen in Hand, believes that writers perform "word magic" because they bring invisible thoughts and feelings to light.
(John 21: 15-17)
“Feed my sheep”, was how You put it. “Feed my lambs”, You said to me.
But Lord, how CAN I feed Your children amongst such greed and tyranny?
Those who have won't share their havings, those who hate won't love like You,
though You made them, gave them life, they will not do the things You do;
And I should know, Lord, I'm the one who once, our friendship, I denied;
I loved You, served You, but when they asked me,“Don't you know Him?” 3 times I lied.
But You gave me another chance, Lord, to share You as the Bread of Life;
food for body, soul, and spirit, hope for husband, child, and wife.
We must realize Your abundance here on earth is for ALL men;
shed our lust for things and power, for hoarding is the spawn of sin.
Not Enough... is not the culprit; Ignorance...it's not about;
Lack is caused by selfish people; with hearts of stone, they've kicked You out!
In this world of rich and plenty, Jesus, press us 'til we cry,
in our self-examinations, “Lord, please tell me, is it I
who've betrayed Your great commission? Have I done enough to feed
this world's poor and starving people, overlooked by my own greed?
Open, please, our hearts to love them, humble us to make this right;
all together we can do this, shed our darkness, share Your light.
“Feed my sheep”, is what You told us, “Feed my lambs” speaks to us all.
Help us do Your loving, giving, and Thank You for this
rake-up-take-up-shake-up-make-up, THANK YOU for this Wake-Up Call!
(c) By Mary Steadman Rhodes
Mary Steadman Rhodes is a Christian wife, mother, & grandmother living in Landover, Maryland. She and her husband of 40+ years have been singing, composing, & writing for many years...and STILL have a lot to say!
Hunger-focused Poems by Maryland Poets
Creation of this section and publishing the works of Maryland poets was supported by the Maryland State Arts Council.