Tag Archives: hunger

Sleepless Night

Why does the fog come
With sleep lurking at its edges?

It descends on me,
I never ask for its cloying hands,

Lifting me slowly, unnoticed,
Until I emerge somewhere on a path of wandering,

Not knowing how long or for what reason.
Perhaps I was not strong enough yesterday:

I did not go on marching into my future
Without heed of my exhaustion.

Still, rest mocked me through the night,
There was no respite for waiting.

Sleepless, I read about imagined people whose sorrow
Sifts like silt somewhere through my DNA.

The people might be fictional,
But the history happened.

Why revisit hungry eyes, pleading faces
Filling the void, frozen in fog?

I already relived them before,
Angry at my helplessness in the face of time.

I can do nothing for two hundred years ago
To quell their desperation and my own.

Their hands, their eyes, their words
Sound and look and feel like mine.

Flailing through this mist of many origins, I cry out,
Searching for you, needing you here.

You come, soul sister, Take my hand,
Touch the top of my head as if consoling a disconsolate child,

Showing me how to feel passed the sadness,
And return to myself, steady and grounded.

I fall asleep at dawn, enfolded gratefully in your arms,
The song of light wrapping us in peaceful calm.

Advertisements

Spilling Over

She eats cereals like there is no tomorrow,
My Grandmother, depressions
Dripping like droplets of milk down her mouth,
Mouthing “more,” when she is not speaking,

Because she never got enough
When still a child, spilled by the fountain of youth onto the sprawling clay,
Needy and not kneaded at the bottom of the Bread Basket,
During the Depression.

She married my grandfather, tall, dark, and disciplined by Want,
Who used his knock-kneed frame as a jungle gym
Especially when the children ran rampant with hunger,
Crying shyly as they were tagged “it.”

My mother warns me to respect grandpa’s habits,
As if God herself deemed his behavior redeemable,
In a last attempt to tempt him with wanting grace.

“Eat your cereal, young lady,” grandma chides. My eyes
Bulge, suspecting yesterday’s meal of frosted minny-wheats
Will be mysteriously displaced into my metal spoon,
Milk draining off the cupped bowl of a concave collection of grain.

The children were always hungry, always crying.
My mother watches me fiercely with a hesitant sympathy plaguing
The whites of her corneas.
I see it sift through her eye like sand and flinch,

She, my mother, the survivor, silently
Witnessing the way I will pay
Tribute to my ancestors.

Quickly, I qualify my breakfast, a hurried gulp
Of saturated solution and swallow,
Exhaling elatedly after the enormous effort.

Two years ago, Grandfather wouldn’t insist on such a crude
Relapse into recalling such remembrances of long-ago,
But senescence seems to detain his decency behind bars,
And as the meal ends with many brothey bowls untouched,

He lifts them up sacredly from his table and gently pours
The contents of each eager-lipped, glossy dish
Into a fountain overflowing, that drips back into the carton of milk;
The same ritual he performed yesterday.

Tomorrow, I’ll leave the furrowed house
Where the roof thatches sink concavely toward the floor,
Where water, after accumulating in the troughs made
By the derivative of the roof’s normal triangular shape,
Eventually cascades into a freak rainstorm off the eves.

In the evening, brother and sister would play in puddles;
You could see the whites of their eyes reflect off the water
As they buried cold toes in dusty sand.

And if you were filled with the sustenance of sparse fortune,
You might offer them milk, and watch their mouths gape open
Like dry caves, accepting the first spray of waterfall.
Then they would save some for the family jar
To relive that white dream whenever they needed.

It was raining when the younger finally slipped out of sight,
Over him mounded grains of earth, and the grey-sky tears falling.
And at dawn, mother crept their barefoot, hardly believing,
There, dew dripped in silence, and there was one who longed no more.

*This poem is based on a story told to me by a family friend.

First World Living

I am giving up, I say
Crawling into bed
Closing my eyes
Many relationships, my dissertation

Are simply not working
I am tired of fighting, I say
Nothing happens
Events feel senseless to me

In high school once a year
We drew tiles
White blue red
First, second, third world

Meals were dealt out accordingly
Everything from banquets to hardly anything
More went home empty and hungry
Some went home full wanting more

Later I walk across the street
To the restaurant
There I am hungry
Potatoes and vegetables, soup and turkey

carry it home
I sit down with my thanks
Giving proportions
Fill a glass

With water
Prepare to eat and realize
This is first world living

Not just the food but
Having more than enough and still
Feeling like
Life is a waste

All day emptiness but outside
The world spills up and over itself everywhere
Full of itself with
More than enough

The Hunger Years

I remember your thin and hollow faces,
And the eyes that stared unfocussed from them,
And how you tried laughing but only cried.

I remember how you buried children in tiny indentations in the rocks,
Because all the furrows on your land
Were already lined with bodies,
Planted as lovingly as seeds.

I remember the trees’ sorrow when you were beneath them, not around them,
I remember the gravely paper-thin hands
That kept moving, long after no one was growing old.

I remember the sand that fell through fingers like displaced tears,
As you held tenuously onto life,
Grasping at earth and sky.

There were loud time gongs everywhere:
Church bells that rang out through empty spaces,
Tolling death through thickly crowded silences.

The living had no use for words,
Merely kept each other close,
Haunting their own hearths that had gone vacant, cold.

I remember that what kept breathing was the water and the stones.
Conversations hushed, so as to not wake the dead.
Conversations hushed, as to not exhaust the living.

I remember how a day felt like a lifetime,
How you won more time over and over,
I remember when freedom lost it’s meaning,
I remember how existence became an agony.

And yet you still moved, and you would die trying,
And the end would find you scrambling
For that one thing that might sustain you.

I remember how you starved for life,
While so many others hungered for greed.
And how they envied you, secretly,
Those whose souls mirrored your emaciated bodies.

I remember how you stood on your feet for hours
In the streets gaunt and raw,
Tattered clothing, stomachs distended and hollow,

A smolder of the light that lived inside you.
And when time ran out, how you dissipated on the wind,
Joining with the many whispering voices.

I remember the rhythmic throbbing of leaving,
Ebbing and flowing like waves crashing
Over the sands pale white with their grieving

I remember the colors of sadness atop the flagpoles.
I remember the shape of dreams as they hovered on horizons,
Like the ghostly hulls of ships in the fog:
The last withering hope to be taken to a new world.

Unsure of where I stand,
Disconnected, but one and the same,
How long would it take to be counted among everyone?
How long would it take to count everyone?

Living takes time, it’s opposite does not,
And I realize we are as fragile as snowflakes.
Lost in what has been and what might be,

I remember as time stands still.
I was not there.