Poem by Teresa Méndez-Quigley
In the Presence of Hunger
In the nine decades my father lived,
he’d experienced the disgrace
of unemployment, employment
in backbreaking labors, bare feet.
In his 70’s, despite my mother’s objections
that it was for the really poor,
he stood in line for government-issued
cheese, refusing to give his name
and income. Instead he lifted up his shirt
to show his six-inch surgical incision,
Look what they’ve done to me, he’d say,
and because it was still raw in its recovery,
they turned away and gave him
the orange cheddar chunk that we rejected
because it tasted so bland and waxy.
But he sliced it, placed each piece on soda crackers
and ate it with sweetened, milk-laden coffee,
because his age had taught him
there is no dishonor in hunger:
the memory of The Great Depression
a half-century strong.
Video of the poem: https://youtu.be/pZ0_NUF63w8
Teresa Méndez -Quigley was selected as the 2004 Poet Laureate for Montgomery County (PA). She studied under the tutelage of poet Christopher Bursk. She resides in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, with her family, surrounded by untamed gardens and stacks of poems yet to be housed.
The poems that follow are powerful evidence that Poetry Speaks Back to Hunger!