Feast and Famine

 

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                     Feast and Famine

 

More is less,
I have heard.
I take another bite of chocolate,
starting more of me.
I keep getting fatter,
tasting delicious
love in my cheeks,
on my tongue.

It nibbles at my teeth.
My dental bills send my dentist to Singapore.
I floss more between my teeth.
I don’t listen
when other people discuss their diets.

It is painful
filling cavities with food.
It gets hard to sit in theaters,
my stomach pressing against my chest.
People ask if I am pregnant.
I say yes.
I am giving birth to more of me.

Meanwhile, I’m a good listener.
People eat my ears up,
take big chunks of them.
I can grow more.
Right now,
this third croissant
is going to my ear.
The next will grow me
more tongue, bigger lips.
When you notice and inquire,
I’m going to tell you stories
that will wind around your skinny waist
like snakes or punk belts,
coil over coil.

This mouth has blistered
in the sun of Africa
in countries now starving.
Well, they were even starving then.
And children sat very close
and learned the words I pointed to.
In the market,
women taught the words
that my mouth needed
to buy their goods.
This is what I bought
in Bati market
on those three hills
where the desert caravans
would wind,
where the high black breasts jutted,
where the scarred faces sought beauty.

In the red dryness,
I bought a silver beaded marriage necklace for myself.
An old woman offered it.
I thought she had done with it, it was such a bargain.
Years later, looking through my photographs,
I saw my necklace on the neck of a young girl––
her bride price purchased for ten dollars.
I never wear it.
It is so beautiful
and I
am growing larger
to feel more ashamed.


I bought also:

lemons, string and wooden beads,
embroidered strips to make a belt of,
Lalibela crosses out of brass,
Shawls as thin as gauze,
a bride dress to be packed away,
camel dung chips for my fire.

On the dead television
in the other room,
some nights they show worlds
that are not strange to me.

Things haven’t changed that much,
 though fewer die now than back then.
I’m not insensitive. I send money
I send money
I send money
but it’s never enough.
What I want to send back
is the necklace.

Too late. That young girl is dead,
buried in a woman forty years older.
I eat for her grandchildren.
I imagine their bellies
swelling with the food I eat for them.
I can hardly ever eat enough.

 

daily life color065

Picture taken at Bati Market, Ethiopia, 1973

 

For the dVerse Poets challengeto write about some hidden part of ourselves–something we would ordinarily not talk about.

15 thoughts on “Feast and Famine

  1. Gospel Isosceles

    I’m fascinated by this piece, Judy. How we experience guilt, what we are worth, how we fill ourselves can look almost absurd in this bisecting of two very different cultures. I like how you described yourself as giving birth to more of yourself and how that hyperbole contrasts to the last stanza of the girl long buried in the body of a forty year old. I don’t have any answers for such a profound equation, but I practice a spiritual belief of fasting for others. There is no way to prove it works or helps, especially when you are not physically connected to the one for which you sacrifice, but it is an act of faith. In writing this poem, I see it as doing just that.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  2. msjadeli

    So many complicated feelings and impressions felt while reading, Judy. When I see the necklace on the young female in the picture I have to think all of the necklaces in the world will not put one spoon of food into her mouth. I’m glad you are writing a book about your experiences there. I thought about doing the same about my experience as a juvenile probation officer and it is daunting as there are so many stories to tell that need to be told. Maybe one story at a time…

    Liked by 1 person

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