Poem by Sally Zakariya
A Plague of Hunger
America’s apple pie and waves of grain
should nourish all, but plague and poverty
leave bellies empty.
Cars line up for bags of groceries
handed safely through the window
mask to mask.
The virus may be on the wane,
but folks still out of work still wonder
where dinner will come from.
Time was the kids got one good
meal at school each day –
before learning went online.
Hunger lurks everywhere – country,
suburb, city – here in our land of plenty,
here where the rich get richer.
The famished yearn for sustenance,
for comfort and contentment.
Why can’t their plates be full?
Sally Zakariya’s poetry has appeared in some 75 print and online journals and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her most recent publication is Muslim Wife (Blue Lyra Press, 2019). She is also the author of The Unknowable Mystery of Other People, Personal Astronomy, When You Escape, Insectomania, and Arithmetic and other verses, as well as the editor of a poetry anthology, Joys of the Table.
Poem by Janet Cannon
harvesting down the road today
at the pecan orchard big shaking
machines grab trees systematically
sending tons of the delicacy down
to sixty-cent an hour workers
who gather the festively strewn bounty
into gunny sacks headed for the privileged
dining room tables on thanksgiving
far from where they are or will be
First published in:
The Texas Review
Sam Houston State University
Janet Cannon’s poems have been published in many literary journals such as the William & Mary Review (College of William & Mary), and the Berkeley Poetry Review (University of California)—among others. She is the author of the poetry book/chapbooks: The Last Night in New York (Homeward Press), Percipience (Cross Cut Saw Press), and Day Laborers (Plan B Press). Janet has taught oral history writing workshops at the NYC Public Library (Chelsea Branch), and ESL at The New School in NYC and community colleges in New York and New Mexico—among other places. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa.
Poem by Brittany Sabatino
Clean Your Plate
I remember my mother saying,
“Clean your plate,
there are starving children who would love to be in your shoes.”
I would sigh
and eat my peas.
Now an adult,
her words echo in my head.
To waste food
seems an act of hate;
so many crying for a meal.
facing a true hunger,
I have never had to feel.
My oven warm from baking,
even during summer,
loves to feed people,
The Italian heritage in my blood
would like to feed the world.
But I cannot set a table
to nourish all the starving.
I cannot feed the world alone.
This is a suffering we all own.
Our future depends
on building a human infrastructure,
that cares about basic needs.
Let us be hungry for change,
until malnutrition is a problem of the past.
Click to listen to the poet read the poem.
Brittany Sabatino is an Italian-American poet working in the Washington, DC area. She has also been published by Thirteen Myna Birds, Scarlet Leaf Review, Dyst Literary Journal and is a contributor in several poetry anthologies, including Spilled Ink, Train River Publishing, and In the Midst. Right now, she is working on refining spoken words skills and participating in virtual poetry open mics schedule permitting.
Poem by Marilyn Fishman
A Brief History of Agriculture
Once upon a time
in the long ago
plants and peoples
two legged, four legged, six legged, eight legged, no legs,
live in a harmony
of prey and predator
servicing each other
for life and
two legged peoples
with busy mouths
and grasping hands
begin to settle,
the land, the waters, the plants,
and the peoples
two legged, four legged, six legged, eight legged, no legs,
breaking the harmony
becoming predator to all.
now, some few two legged people
seeing that the world is burning
are planting trees
and gardening for life
inviting those others
four legged, six legged, eight legged, no legs,
restoring the harmony
yard by acre
rebuilding what was lost.
Click to hear the poet read the poem.
After spending 40+ years in corporate information technology, Marilyn Fishman retired to focus on the important things in life: gardening, reading, knitting, listening to classical music, and learning to write poetry. She is a Rutgers Certified Master Gardener Burlington County, NJ who gardens for life having created a National Wildlife Certified Habitat.
Poem by Joan McNerney
Stand on one line to register to
see the doctor. Sit and wait and wait and wait
until doctor rushes in fast talk
handing you a prescription.
Stand on another line to pay
for the visit. Walk over the
cold bus line. Wait wait wait.
Get on another line at pharmacy
to pay for prescription. Stand on
a very L O N G grocery store
line to buy something to eat.
Hurry quickly now to come home.
You have followed the straight and
narrow in this personal hell of lines.
The bottom line is minus
$100 and bread and jam for dinner.
took away spring
stole all the glory
throwing our gardens of green
into these hills of scorched grass?
dared to care
more about money
destroying everything good
forgetting earth is our only home?
is so callous
to laugh at the suffering
of the sick poor yet pretend
to believe in a loving God?
laughed at our hunger
robbing our hope
burning heaven with dry
lightning to pierce the sky.
began all these wars
making mothers cry for children
searching for their bodies
in the chaos of destruction?
the angels moan?
Joan McNerney’s poetry is found in many literary magazines and she has four Best of the Net nominations. Her latest titles are The Muse in Miniature and Love Poems for Michael both available on Amazon.com and Cyberwit.net.
Poems by Rosemary Klein
Lunch, circa forever
Baloney. A slather
of mustard scraped across white bread.
An apple wrapped in a white napkin.
A carton of milk. Then sleep,
with the cookie clutched in my hand.
Living Off the Fat of the Land
Why do the bourgeoisie get headaches
when they haven’t eaten for hours?
Nothing will suffice except the cow
ripped open, its lactose larder spilling
over blueberries or firmed into cheese.
One can never pile the raspberries
high enough to stem the pangs
of the hungry bourgeoisie. They cannot
tussle, paddle, think, burn their way
out of a paper bag until the stomach
has been settled like an estate.
Rosemary Klein edited The Maryland Poetry Review throughout its 15-year existence, was founding editor and publisher of Three Conditions Press, has publications in regional, national, and international journals and anthologies, was a fellow at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, a poet-in-residence at the George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology and for the Maryland State Arts Council, and a recipient of a Poetry for the People Baltimore Legacy Award.
Poem by Wynne Morrison
Going by the pond
My father stops here on his way back home,
still covered in the dry dirt of the field.
This time last year the spillway ran half full,
becoming home to frogs and water bugs,
and minnows seeking safety from the bream.
He looks down at the water line. It’s dropped
another foot below the rim. The cattle
finally choose to stumble in, their necks
stretched to the dirt-brown water far below.
He wondered if the geese would come this year,
but they still found their way. A green heron
the geese tried to chase away has settled at
the far side of the pond. My father sits
a while, watching the birds. When he stands,
he reaches up to brush away the dust.
Click to listen to the poet read the poem.
Wynne Morrison is a physician practicing pediatric critical care and palliative care at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she holds the Justin Michael Ingerman Endowed Chair. She is a Professor at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Her published work focuses on ethics, end-of-life care, and poetry.
Poems by Serena Agusto-Cox
I know the rumble of a belly,
It seems loud, but hunger is a silence.
It hides in plain sight, descends on the food bank.
Lines of mothers, fathers, grandfathers, children;
heads down, bags hopeful.
Rows of cans and boxes, sodium and fat content high.
Vegetables and fruits coveted by all: a juice running
down a child's chin, the wet smile of sweetness.
Day-by-day worry gnaws at the food insecure
Will there be enough? Can we get more? When
will we be food secure?
Food Bank Deposits
Swim your fastest race, little one.
It's worth three cans of spaghetti.
Each glide, each stroke pulls
in boxes of macaroni. Every 25 meters
a flip turn for the rice. Forget the savory salt
of popcorn as you dolphin kick. Longer strokes
bring tuna can towers, omega-3
fatty acids. Peanut butter smooth freestyle slices
of bread with jelly sweetness to quell the grumble.
Swim meet deposits bridge a community.
Bio: Serena Agusto-Cox was one of the first featured poets of the DiVerse Gaithersburg reading series in Maryland. Poems are in The Magnolia Review, MacQueen's Quinterly, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Dissonance Magazine, Mothers Always Write, Bourgeon, and elsewhere. Work appears in the This Is What America Looks Like anthology, Mom Egg Review’s Pandemic Parenting issue, The Plague Papers digital anthology, H.L. Hix’s Made Priceless, Love_Is_Love: An Anthology for LGBTQIA+ Teens, and Midge Raymond’s Everyday Book Marketing.
Poem by Lori Heninger
When everything has been taken
and what remains behind are miles,
paths of footprints in earth;
when most everything known
(other than what one carries
inside a mind) is not here,
when one, alone, surrounded
by loss arrives at a camp,
an expanse of tents and questions,
data is taken, items are given:
food, clothing, bedding, utensils, pots,
jerrycans for water, cans of cooking oil;
resilience and will transform emptied cans
to planters: inside those tins, just outside
a tent’s flap, soil becomes home for seeds.
stringy plants seem too frail
to bear the weight of their fruit:
tended, they survive,
a line, a link, a memory,
a smell, a taste, the familiar fact
of picking and cutting and cooking.
A trade; this tomato for that onion,
becomes a market, vegetables
lying on sand, on a cloth,
their cost, a cause to speak;
the words, the exchange, this is known.
Lori Heninger is a writer, poet and nonprofit executive is Executive Director of The Montclair
Fund for Women. Her over-30 years of experience in US- and internationally-based humanitarian and development work is the basis for much of her poetry. Lori received her PhD from City University Graduate Center in New York City, and currently lives in the rural eastern United States, with her husband, two dogs, a cat and six chickens.
Poem by doris diosa davenport
weeny (wiener) soup
(a meditation on enrichment in impoverishment & systemic “food insecurity” in the Deep South, USA)
Dolores, my sister, and me, one day got to talking
about weeny soup on the phone her mouth
watered about the same time as mine, “Keep this up,
I‘ll go make me some,” she said, taking words
& taste out of my mouth (both vegetarians by then)
a few dyed dark-red weenies, canned tomatoes,
water, salt & pepper, our food-magician momma
cut up weenies in small chunks dumped in a
big pot of water (onions if she had them)
simmered slowly til the smell made you
hungry; like the thought makes me, right now.
No, i don’t reckon our Uncle Jack feels the same
about salt & pepper sandwiches on white
bread but he ate a sandwich like that,
one time, with us, on Collins Street, did, and smacked
his lips just like it was a git-down pig ear sandwich
(with hotsauce & mayonnaise) but i still hate pinto beans.
Not Cousin Jimmy. He loved ‘em then, he loves them now, and
he will invite you to have some
just as happy and proud - like, since he loves pinto beans,
he knows you do. Not me. Just
the words make my stomach cramp ever since that day after school,
when i got home ahead of everybody & ate the whole pot. Yeah, i
got sick. (Don’t get stupid on me.)
You’d get sick too if you ate that many beans
at once. Just the thought and i get sick,
even now. (i’m getting sick now.)
No. Naw. Give me weeny soup,
any day and if i can’t get that,
some pig feet will do.
doris diosa davenport (pronouns: person/per) is a visionary 73 year old African American lesbian-
feminist; independent scholar and literary & performance poet, born and raised in Cherokee Homelands (colonized by Europeans as Northeast GA). doris has published 12 books of poetry, most recently, dancing in time: poetry, monologue, stories, lies (2019). Per is the 2022 recipient of the Lillian E. Smith Writer-in-Residence Award (Piedmont University).
The poems that follow are powerful evidence that Poetry Speaks Back to Hunger!