Poem by Heidi Mordhorst
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.
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The poems that follow are powerful evidence that Poetry Speaks Back to Hunger!