Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Moving Geography of Hunger

America, 1930s:
My mother tells a story
of waiting with her sisters
and brother for Mama
to come home from scrubbing
floors at the Bijou,
hoping for the simultaneous
arrival of something to eat,
perhaps day-old French bread,
welcome even without butter.

Africa, 2010s:
After the rains fail
and the tribes explode
and the soldiers come
and the machetes flash
in the sunlight,
the children stand in line
for their handful of grain,
not knowing if their handful
will be there tomorrow.
Some have heard of oranges.

America, 1930s:
The children stood in line for the
Thanksgiving baskets,
shrunken cornucopias, not
knowing what was worse, the
hunger or its shame.
My mother tells the story
of the arrival of Mama and
nothing else except
the sounds of empty
stomachs in the night.

This poem was written for One Stop Poetry’s photo challenge, One Shot Sunday. To see other poems on hunger and the homeless, please visit One Stop Poetry (and read the pomes posted by Leslie Moon and Pete Marshall).

The title of this poem is taken from a speech by Norman Borlaug, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and father of the Green Revolution.


Louise Gallagher said...

Wow -- what a powerful and beautifully written poem Glynn.

The juxtaposition of then and now is stunning.

Claudia said...

glynn - i love that you compared it with africa today - not just sth that was long ago but something very real an alive today

dustus said...

Excellent poem, Glynn. Unexpected, creative shifts that make for meaningful re-readings. Thanks for sharing with us!

Sandra Heska King said...

Oh my word, Glynn. This is powerful!

Jerry said...

Very cutting. Right down to the sounds of empty stomachs.

Kodjo Deynoo said...

It makes one think, what have I to worry about and cry my tears of desperation

Maureen said...

I love the title of this poem, and in that second stanza that wonderful concluding line "Some have heard of oranges". Your use of details like "day-old French bread,/ welcome even without butter" and "shruken cornucopias" is excellent.

The sad truth is that the America of 2010s remains in some places full of "sounds of empty/stomachs".

hedgewitch said...

Life is simple when your belly's empty, my grandfather used to say, Also, you're not poor if you have a roof over your head and food on the table. We who have so much lose track of what's really there, so often. Your well-constructed poem makes an excellent argument for understanding that the pain of one is the pain of all.

Melissa Campbell said...

Tears. I love how you sandwiched today with the past. And your imagery is heart-wrenching. Blessings.

Anita Magdalena said...

A powerful write that makes one realise we should want for nothing when we already have so much compared to those whom have absolutely nothing.


Reflections said...

Powerful piece, sharing the hungers of yesterdays, and the realities of todays...

Gigi Ann said...

We can only hope that we will never have to experience those difficult times again, however, It sounds like many today are homeless, after the loss of their jobs, etc. Nice poem.

Unknown said...

"the hunger or its shame"...unfortunately, i lived this more in the first person...lean times and the shame because they couldn't provide...i was always fed, but went w/o most else, including this is the part that hit most and we can't forget where we've been, thanks!

Deidra said...

So moving. Hunger, poverty, homelessness - it always is. Sometimes in places where it's easier for us to just forget about it. This parallel you've drawn is powerful.

L.L. Barkat said...

"the hunger or its shame"

that is one serious line.

I remember food stamps. I remember wishing them away, even though they were our lifeline.