Meditation on Hunger
So this was our harvest. A single tomato from two vines.
Some said there was too much sun or too much rain, but we
got what we got. Be grateful, I said, with wisdom that came
from thinking about hunger for many days and images and
words that had shattered my imagination;
at 12, an old man rummaging through the trash for food on
my first field trip to the UN; at 14, kwashiorkor - the pot bellies
and slatted ribs of Biafran children and forever the ghost faces
of the newly liberated from the concentration camp Dachau.
Who feeds the Heaven-dreams of the hungry?
We will have a ceremony my friend said, so we cut the fruit in
equal parts, which I salted and held on my tongue as she began
the Shehecheyanu - Baruch ata Adonai - singsonging to the finish.
Then we clinked our glasses and toasted L’Chaim! To Life!
My Master once gave these instructions:
“Buy this girl some food”, he said on my birthday.
It was his affection, but now I’m thinking
“When was my famine?” When had it begun for each of us?
an insatiable hunger, an unquenchable thirst.
My cat comes to the door after a heavy rain. As long as she
is with me I will feed her. Soon it will be time to put on my sari
(perhaps the one with butterflies) and continue the nurturing task
of feeding others.
Let me not forget this benediction,
this prayer for plentitude,
Food is God.
Bhikshuni Weisbrot is the President of the UNSRC Society of Writers. She is the editor, along with Elizabeth Lara and Darrel Alejandro Holnes, of "Happiness, The Delight-Tree", An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry.
He is the maestro of the misbegotten
don of the destitute
headliner for the homeless.
Spring, summer, autumn, and winter
Bogey sits on the bench of an outstretched folding table
head hung down, eyes clinging to the cement floor
of one of two adjacent pavilions,
his hands stuffed into the pockets
of his stained and faded evergreen hoodie.
In spring, summer, autumn
—but never winter--
pretty women in pastel-colored exercise outfits
park their gleaming Subarus, SUVs, and Mercedes
along a tree-lined park drive
and hurry over to the pavilion
next to the one where Bogey sits.
They wave their long arms like tulip stems
to the rhythms of their leader.
“One…two…three…come on, ladies!
You’re almost there!”
Bogey, frozen on the bench
in his open-air theater wing,
watches them curiously as he waits
for Squire the squirrel to leap onto the table
and feast on the peanuts that Bogey has lined up
for him like tiny communion cups.
Soon, as he does most mornings,
a gray-haired man with a Labrador retriever
will sit down beside Bogey and talk to him
in hushed but intense tones,
like a theater director
urging a Shakespearean actor not to be afraid,
Richard Stukey is a freelance writer who also writes fiction, poetry, and songs. His articles and columns have appeared in many publications, including the (North Jersey) Record, the Washington Examiner, and the Boston Globe. He grew up in Teaneck Jersey, and lives in the Shenandoah Valley of West Virginia.
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corralled by crates
till inside number
on great race
to gather up
troves in bulk
did I purchase enough?
to replenished shelves
*first published in March 2020: A COVID-19 Anthology (2020) by 845 Press.
Ryan Gibbs is an English professor who lives in London, Canada. His over forty poems have appeared in journals and anthologies in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Malta, and Saint Pierre and Miquelon. His children’s poetry has been included in the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness. Twitter: @RyanGibbsWriter
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Comes a time…
A subliminal nibbling,
famines we have seen
are how we may be.
there is food for all.
Turn the tide of history,
settle for less,
share the largesse.
Pick your story:
the loaves and fish,
today’s farmers with extra hay
sending it to those without.
Emulate that spirit:
stock the foodbank shelves,
protest/prevent the desiccation of farmland,
do what you can to stop
the melting of glaciers
which feed our rivers.
The revolution has to be generous.
Care for each other.
food, resources, knowledge.
We are – all are – one with the Earth
no matter how far separate we may seem.
"I’ve been a writer all my life while moving through a career path that included printing, proof-reading, composing room work, reporting, eventually editing and publishing my own newspaper, teaching, and union work. I’ve written non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and songs."
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A Southern Farmers Market
Summer sun freckles your shoulders
I follow your cotton dress
Between stalls carrying canvas bags
Soon overflowing with booty
From our morning expedition
Cauliflower white yellow
And unbelievably purple
Fondled by your whisper long fingers
While choosing the ideal
Head for greedy consumption
Greens mustard collard turnip
Fibrous deep verdant
Leaves that will shrivel
To potent nutrition
With vinegar and fatback
The canvas cornucopia
Spills across our kitchen table
You prepare a lunch
Sharpened with flavors
Purchased mere minutes ago
We eat on the deck
Ignore air conditioning
Feed each other blueberries
With our lips reveling
in primal nature
Bartholomew Barker is an organizer of Living Poetry, a collection of poets in North Carolina. Born and raised in Ohio, studied in Chicago, he worked in Connecticut for nearly twenty years before moving to Hillsborough where he makes money as a computer programmer to fund his poetry habit.
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.
The poems that follow are powerful evidence that Poetry Speaks Back to Hunger!