Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hunger Theory (Poem)

Depression-Era Childhood Faces, Soup Kitchen, St. Louis, Missouri

Hunger Theory

What we know of demand theory,
     of deep recessions and business cycles

you won't find in books about the great depression.
     Where we come from, mice and men both scrap

for potato skins when the light dies. Even the mockingbird frets,
     mourning its way for lack of relief at the end of a bread line.

Nothing you've read about last runs on banks as dried up
     as Midwest dirt done consuming a day's bucket of water

removes the taste of sparrow bones in our mouths, prevents
     our mothers' migration from their harvest-busted fields.

Farmers, unforgiven their loans, offer us bowls of dust
     we turn upside down. Patient, we try to curb the appetites

our dreams feed, cinch our lips, keep staring straight out, our eyes
     not so good at masking the indifference we reflect back on you.

Hunger, don't you know, can put up a fierce fight:
     make do without shoes, a change of clothes, even a new deal

hero. But an empty basket, big or small, just wastes you, waiting
     and wanting till your time runs out.

© 2010 Maureen E. Doallas

I wrote this poem for One Shoot Photography Sunday at One Stop Poetry, which today features a Picture Prompt Poetry Challenge using the image shown above.

Anyone may participate in the challenge. Go here to read the two poems introducing the prompt, "The Day After..." by Leslie Moon and "Waste" by Pete Marshall, and to learn what to do to accept the challenge.


Sandra Heska King said...

I can't begin to imagine what it must have been like for so many.

Mulling over this line: "Patient, we try to curb the appetites our dreams feed." So many kinds of hunger.

hedgewitch said...

You've done a lot with this, definitely got below the skin and into the kernel inside. The fourth and fifth couplets in particular pack a significant punch.

dustus said...

The references to theories, political platforms, and lit allusions add many layers. Read it a few times. Great use of the prompt. Thanks for accepting the challenge!

Von said...

A good piece, wish someone would write a poem about the orphan trains.

Claudia said...

waiting and wanting till your time runs out..this is a fantastic ending to a poem which included so much. great take on the prompt maureen

Chris G. said...

Very unique angle on the prompt there - multi-layered piece with a strong, engaging flow, in which I particularly liked the draw in of the farmers and all. The whole way through I kept thinking back to "The Grapes of Wrath" and that whole struggle...fine piece. Very fine piece.

Reflections said...

Such depth, breadcrumbs thrown to the birds referencing details of difficult times... well done.

Just Me said...

This poem is brilliant. It brings back the memories of stories my grandmother used to tell me about when she was a kid. You really nailed the feeling of that horrific time period. Excellent piece of writing!

Glynn said...

Academic economic theory comes face to face with the human reality. You remind us that the Great Depression happened to real people. Excellent, Maureen.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Maureen, you pack so much into tight lines and sparse words.

It is very powerful -- the use of both the new deal, political platforms and the hardship of the people who must live with nothing resolved by political maneuverings.

M.L. Gallagher said...

I'm not sure my comment got through!

Just in case -- a powerful poem with huge ideas encapsulated in sparse and clear writing.


Deidra said...

I have returned to this poem over and over again. Each time it stuns me, and I am overwhelmed.

S. Etole said...

I've enjoyed the different poems this photo has prompted ... yours reaches many layers. Ultimately, the hunger is still there.

nance marie said...

bowls of dust
dust bowl
like a volcano