Unlike some, I have no love affair
with my compost pile. In fact,
I must confess that I have
neither compost pile, nor heap
of my own to pay homage to,
as others do. And so, I must root
through others’ compost poems,
like a pig in search of a truffle,
to find a rhyming morsel,
maybe a metaphor for myself,
perhaps the perfect line of poetry
discarded here in decomposition,
among the things that refuse
to be downed by our dismissal,
won’t settle for being garbage.
Rotting rinds, wilted greens and coffee
grounds, leaves, and curls of carrots,
curling and turning, they wonder
what they will become.
Unlike the un-living,
crouched in corners wasted and gone bad,
I keep on burning, turning
the heap, turning the line,
a plebeian poet, composing,
piling it on, potato peels and pumpkin skins,
all of it: the loneliness, the alienation,
the shucked out husks of others’ lives.
And yet, this bloated mass of rank unwieldy woe
with its helping hordes of nematodes
will rise up in resurrection. Yes,
compost is history, a running story,
a poem composed of decomposing images.
Note: Italicized lines are found lines, but I do now have my own compost piles.
David Mook is author of two collections: EACH LEAF (Poems and Essays on Grief and Loss), and Corn-Pone 'Pinions (Political Poems, Essays and Cartoons) featuring Art by Tom O'Brien. David has an MFA in Writing from Vermont College and teaches at Castleton University.
i prepared a simple supper
but with great love i cooked
that main meat of refined wheat
durum semolina, traded as rotini
an Italian pasta to go with beef, a grace
from a Canadian cow grazed in prairie grass,
spiced with herbs from the hunted tropics:
ginger, garlic, turmeric, and coriander
powdered, with red pepper powder
and red pepper crushed, black pepper
(also powdered), added to the onion
chopped, fennel, fenugreek, and cumin
(all seeds), and the magical mustard,
adding leaves chopped: basil, chives
and parsley, with garam masala, a Bharat
special, sprinkled with hardly a pinch of salt
before adding the slow-cooked African beans
and Mexican sauce: chopped and crushed tomato,
and boiled potato, after being sautéed
in the US canola oil to enhance the taste
of minerals and more already in my pan:
folate, iron, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine
already mixed in carbohydrate, the main
with Chinese additives: citric, soy, and seasonings
unlisted; likewise the two sealed cans
that curtailed my sprinkling salt for supper
came with corn starch, sugar, more spices
and blackstrap molasses, and a poetic muse
Henry Victor, a Canadian, originally a Tamil Sri Lankan, is a retired Professor and Priest (Anglican), indulges in poetry.
Illumination is a sudden thing.
We can only think,
think and wait,
and all the while we move, touching this thing,
holding that paperweight,
running a hand through hair,
pulling chin, nose, ears,
biting lips, tapping feet,
I’d think, strange how I can touch
these and not god.
My skin then was hide,
felt nothing of god.
Or was it god’s skin
like an orange,
fragrant, pitted bitter peel
before the cool sweet god-juice?
A dark night passed and a hot day came,
heat like the horror
of a beggar on a white afternoon
eating at the public dustbin,
and dry, thick in the throat,
burning my feet through my shoes.
And a friend said
you must peel the orange—here, this way.
I followed her closely
and did the same, finding the flesh inside
touched each still dry lobe, in wonder
and bit at last, drank deeply.
This was my first taste of god.
Harbour Line, Mumbai
to Cotton Green,
with yellow eyes.
just a little down the line
at Currey Road,
they look for food
in the parked garbage trucks
to be washed.
To the years coming and going
Blessed, walked on stars and coals
mind a red-hot rose opened in the cold
was the story that I tell
not the king but Falstaff
jugs in hands, laughed
drank with fear, ate with dust
tongue a blade, everything and I could burst
ran for miles in bared teeth
so she and I could meet.
Come in this year, find a seat
a blessing cup. On the fire there is meat.
Poet Gavin Barrett is a Canadian immigrant poet of colour, born in Bombay (now Mumbai) to Anglo-Indian and Goan-East-African parents. He is the author of Understan (Mawenzi House, 2020), a CBC Books recommendation, and co-curator of The Tartan Turban Secret Readings, a literary reading series that promotes IBPOC voices in Canadian literature.
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
The poems that follow are powerful evidence that Poetry Speaks Back to Hunger!