Dying To Be Thin
The camera captures Ethiopian children,
eagerly reaching for bowls of gluey gruel,
while she stands, on stilt-legs,
silhouetted in my office doorway.
Skin like chalk, hair like straw,
she wails, “I’m too fat!”
pointing to an inch of concave abdomen
visible between the waistline of skin-tight jeans and pale pink top,
declaring “Daddy’s Girl!” in sequins.
She’s determined to be the thinnest girl in tenth grade –
at 85 pounds she has the dubious distinction of being
the thinnest girl in the entire school,
but she doesn’t believe it.
She can never be thin enough.
I can’t talk to this middle-class child of privilege
about starving children in refugee camps
or about her own calcium-starved bones.
All I can do today is listen,
seeing it as a sign of hope
that she has come to talk,
before it is too late.
This poem previously appeared in The Nashwaak Review.
Margaret Patricia Eaton is the author of three collections of poetry, a photographer, mixed media artist, and free lance writer, living in Moncton, NB, Canada. Her experience as a school guidance counsellor prompted her to write “Dying to be Thin”, published in The Nashwaak Review, 2004. She is thrilled that Rebecca Roach has made a donation, on behalf of this poem, to Eden Reforestation Partners (California) to plant trees in various African and Central American countries, that will rebuild forest ecosystems and help combat our climate crisis.
I see you…stationary on invisible, intersections of life. You are holding a menu of lack. Sometimes the crime of where you haven’t been is enough to get you ignored when you’re sitting at an empty table. It isn’t a fable that stirs your options in hot water resembling the taste of soup. The broth of catsup fills your cup of hunger while your mind picks at the thought of diving into a smorgasbord of hesitant fare? It isn’t the entrée you desired to snare.
I see you…dressed for success, but the yes on your face is re-placed by a struggling grip of wheel that cuts back on a job that isn’t there. Your pockets bare all, but the threads that slip through your fingers like change you want to see and not hear the hollow speech as you reach with desperation of hope in front of you. You never knew that the famine fuming in your tank could not be cashed at any bank. In fact, you would much rather make a deposit of depression at your own discretion.
I see you…thirsting for more than blight in your bowl. The toll of your night has not been as sweet as the treat of dipping cookies in cold milk. But the trick of scraps floating to the top cannot quench your crummy situation. We live in a nation where divergence is a depiction. Your life is not science fiction. Kids like to play with their food, but you can’t if the mood of your belly swells from the dust of mud-cakes. The recipe bakes into sleep that drools and rules, after the pang of hunger has schooled you.
I see you…because I see me, a reflection of who you are when I look into a mirror. I see clearer, when I understand that I am one situation away from holding a menu of lack; praying that my family stays intact. I am just a blur in the rush of traffic that won’t see me standing at intersections of introspection. I am just one boxed dilemma away from carrying the weight of pantry shelves into my home of fleeting heat. I am just one crumpled dollar away from a benevolent car window. It isn’t a fable that you are one snapshot away from being hungry today because I see you.
This poem previously appeared in Of Rust and Glass.
Sandra Rivers-Gill, an Ohio native, is an award-winning poet and writer who has been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies. She is the editor of “Dopeless Hope Fiends,” and is a recipient of a Toledo Arts Commission Accelerator Grant. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communication and is currently pursuing a Masters degree. sandrariversgill.com
Birds of Paradise
Maeve pecked at dysentery and cholera
while Netty sang softly to the earthly bodies
and stark moon children
among the dung and grass fires
nested on smoked fields
She didn’t care that Netty called herself nurse
as long as she could do a decent bandage
in shimmering heat as an endless line
shuffled passed the committee of soldiers in ball caps
their curved beaks circling over the dying
A better place Netty overheard
and All the food you can eat
as a laying-on of hands began
and a clutch of children grew larger
The world needs to know mother
Netty chirped as Maeve
her shift feathered red
finished the suture of a women’s stump-leg
in the back of a pick-up truck
The reporter behind the sand bagged wall
tapped hawkishly on his notepad
then stared at it with his head cocked
and did another flourish
when he noticed a woman hovering nearby
She stepped closer her hands flapping in front
giving flight to words that fell in tears of dust
After struggling with music, Inman began writing to deal with the rhythms in his head. His teacher eventually suggested poetry to “get that flowery shit” out of his work. An American war resister who had studied at U of T during the tail end of the Frye/McLuhan era, she loved holding class in museums where she’d talk about Impressionism and working-class life in landscape. “You should write like that in your blue collar style,” she said, pointing at peasants gleaning fields in a mountain's shadow. Inman has six books of poetry. His latest are The War Poems: Screaming at Heaven, SEAsia (pronounced Seize-ya) and The Way History Dries, all from Black Moss Press. His books tend to work like novels. His themes link character to landscape.
How to Feed a Sea of People
Consider the rice, said the water,
for I am its beginning and its end.
I take its stalks, all of them gently
in my wide muddy mouth. I hold
each one by its root, washing it through.
Slender on long legs, the rice dozes.
In its emerald shift, it dreams
of flamingoes and ladders,
of endless perpendicularity.
I soak and suck
as if I were breathing through bamboo.
I enter each silo, spiraled like a shell,
each cathedral of green
a controversy of vessels.
The rice is an organpipe played to the glory
of common grasses.
I climb into the swaying spray
of seeds setting, anticipating amber,
too absorbed to notice the dry season.
I have given the rice my all,
molecular bind, covalence in its
revolution of pineapple, palm, paper.
And have you learned yet how
to feed a sea of people?
Swallowing requires steam.
Forthwith let’s address the heat,
the mouth, the hand.
This poem owes its inception and form to the poem “How to Stuff a Pepper” by Nancy Willard, from her 1974 book CARPENTER OF THE SUN. Here I gratefully apply a simple cooking technique to the complex global agricultural challenge we face. You can hear this poem read aloud at https://bit.ly/HowToFeedASeaOfPeople
Heidi Mordhorst is the author of two collections of poetry for young readers as well as contributions to many anthologies, including LIFE IN ME LIKE GRASS ON FIRE (Maryland Writers’ Association). She serves on the NCTE Excellence in Poetry Award Committee and teaches public school PreK in Maryland. Find her at https://myjuicylittleuniverse.blogspot.com.
dead giraffes in the Kenyan bush
dissolve like rancid butter
in the heat of the unending drought
emaciated cattle lie down in the desert sand
serrated ribs sink into rivulets of erosion
carved long before by extinct rain
the village digs deep in the earth
to find the trembling brown water
lifted to the light bucket by bucket
the four year old girl
too weak to raise her head
eyes like dead fish
a childhood without a childhood
where laughter never rains
only dust so eager to devour
and way to the North
an oozing caramel of cars
scarifies the land in toxic opulence
and a child’s balloon is caught
on power lines
in dark descending twilight
brothers and cousins
emerge from the family compound
and follow snow-dusted lanes
to the busy avenues in Kabul
with their shoeshine kits
a group of four
in case they encounter
to earn a few coins
worth an american nickel
to buy bread
to take home to family
they wish they were in school
to become doctors or engineers
when they grow up
but since their fathers have no work
they shine shoes
unless like this morning
no one needs their services
stomachs pang eyes are proud
wait— a few pairs of shoes
thrust out of a door
the boys sit on the ground
just enough for a bread
split four ways
workers have to be fed
the veiled sun begins to descend
in the grey winter sky behind minarets
the mantle of responsibility
doesn’t ward off the cold
shoulders hunch forward
night will be long again
take the long way home
in case fortune might smile
and fill a few pockets
with bread for the sisters
mothers and the fathers
who scratch proverbs in the dust
with stunted sticks
and count exhausted prayer beads
simmering in frustration
afraid to look in mirrors
the boys’ shadows stretch homewards
sweet delay of a few more transactions
muffled laughter at an inside joke
warm bread warms the hand
child is father to the man
give all a fair portion of dignity
give all the means to be
the lion will hold high his head
Argos MacCallum is an actor, director, carpenter, theatre manager, and co-founder of Teatro Paraguas, a bilingual theatre company promoting Latinx plays in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has lived the past 50 years in his homestead in the shadow of the Cerrillos Hills off the Turquoise Trail outside Santa Fe, where the coyotes party all night long.
for Sandor Katz
In the age of modern miracles:
Frozen logs of plastic-wrapped dough
make perfect cookies in minutes.
You give your spouse the extra time
to bring home the bread,
the wheat, the staff of life,
modified for convenience
in the company lab.
It’s food on the table,
once you’ve paid the gas
and pinched the moment
in a microwave,
lending more minutes
to your dual income
for delicious splendor
in fractions of the moment.
But ancient wisdom says:
Food for the soul takes
a good spell in the kitchen to make
a little sweetness in your life,
to bake a proper loaf you might need
patience for the yeast in the air
to make love in your dough,
give it rise, punch it down,
kneed it with your arms,
place it in your womb,
the oven of your ardor – a creation
from the mountain of earth,
the straw from your fields
and rocks from the river,
in the fire you made with your own hands
from the wood the trees gave you
in the last big storm.
Buffy Aakaash grew up queer in the hills and lakes of New Jersey west of New York City. His work is published in The Poet Magazine, Oberon, Iris Literary Journal, Write Launch, Main Street Rag, and others. He lives, travels and moves about with his dog, Bodhi.
Lost Legacy of Farming Life
All terrains from extensive plains,
to the valleys, hills and mountains
cleared bushes and carved terraces
diked plots to win nature’s graces
turned all wastes into bountiful manure
reaped harvest then, nurturing the future
Pens and barns, full of goats, buffaloes, cattle
perennial chores of livelihood battle
tending livestock with love & care
adoring feeding stalls to grazing pasture
as if a genuine steward of natural treasure
in lieu of pails of milk for family to savor
and supplement labor with draft power
reaped harvest then, nurturing the future
Selling produce, goats, cattle and buffalos
a desire to observe festivals with new clothes
enduring heat, cold, storm and rain
grateful for enough to eat, feed and entertain
respecting heritage of colorful culture
reaped harvest then, nurturing the future
A rustic homestead with a house and barns
dwelling joint family of three generations
from grandparents to grand children
sharing woes & with love & affection
together with kin, cohorts and neighbor
reaped harvest then, nurturing the future
The tale is not just a poetic fiction
but is the gist of nostalgic recollection
and a reflection of childhood of my own
witnessing ancestral diligence and devotion
may it give us wisdom and inspiration
perpetually for future generations
Nityananda was born and raised in a farm family in a rural mountainous village of Lumbini zone in Nepal. A quest of higher education brought him to
Canada. After getting a Doctor of Philosophy degree in plant science from University of Saskatchewan in Canada, he has been working as a research scientist
in Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. He is a life member of the Association of Nepalese Agricultural Professionals of Americas, where he currently chairs the Resource and Capacity Building Committee.
in a parallelogram of sunshine beyond a breezeway window
ten barefoot steps from a small kitchen’s small sink
grows a well-staked garden under some rabbit proof mesh
not far from where an old hose seeps over moss-covered flagstones
raised from seed and tidied by fussing fingers and a Mother’s wooden-handled spade,
the plants come of age, jostling in their cribs and cracking the pottery
coiling with ringlets, feral interests, squash blossoms, and green hairy stems, they are no longer the grower’s nurslings and have questions:
why do we belong in this gardener’s dream?
why not someone else’s?
someone for whom a handful of berries might fill a plate too long empty
slake a hunger, borne forever
kale, squash, dill-weed, beets, peppers, parsley, basil and butter beans
leafy foods in every color, how can there not be enough for every plate?
i have no answers, she tells them, then savoring the bounty, wishing she could do more, the gardener fills her bowl to the brim, and after sating her hunger, scrapes the leftovers into the compost bin and reties the garden stakes because there are hungry rabbits too
After decades of teaching literature and philosophy, Patricia now lives in Northern Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes area in a cradle of sky, water and trees, where she writes and makes art about people in relation to their habitats. Past publications include small press literary journals; academic philosophy forums, Women’s Day Magazine, and a feature column for a tri-county paper.
Homeless and Hungry
Where do I go to be safe?
Where, oh where do my children
and I get a bite to eat during
Let it be told so someone can help
our stomachs not to hurt.
So hungry, so cold at night!
My babies can not stop crying
Fear and pains reasons why.
Change gotta come for survival
Hard times drive us to be Homeless
Wide-eyed Innocent Children stare
All babies know are severe pains of hunger
All babies want are a peanut butter and jelly
How about an apple, how about a
banana, or sip of milk, some juice.
Hear babies’ feeble cry
Listen how they whimper.
Can you please show us way to
shelter and food?
Food will take away pain
Unite to help rid our hunger, help
Mothers stay sane.
Unity brings phenomenal change.
Thank you for awesome help you
give to ex out gloom.
So my babies will stop crying
So my babies will have cover
over head soon
Sylvia Dianne Beverly (Ladi Di) entered this poem about food waste in the 2018 World Food Day Poetry Prize competition. A collection of her work is housed at George Washington University's Gelman Library. Ladi Di celebrated the 40th Anniversary of Host Grace Cavalieri, reading on her show "The Poet and the Poem" at the Library of Congress Experience.
Hunger is the Norm
The child, a mere skeleton,
looks up with glazed over
eyes, and a blank stare.
I look back and wish to
help, too feed him,
but it is too late.
His frail body
nourishment. We are
into the eyes of death.
He accepts it without
question. For, you see,
to him starvation and
death are the norm.
Milton says, “My poems are not entirely mine. They belong to the people and events of my passage through life. The sum of my life experiences, with more to come, I am sure. Once the dam is breached its contents flow unabridged. I also express myself through my art and craft work of dream catchers and mini sculptures. With the support of family and friends I continue to be creative and productive.”
The poems that follow are powerful evidence that Poetry Speaks Back to Hunger!